Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

A Disturbing Trend in Awana

Several years ago I was asked what would Awana have to do to make me stop using their material. I see a trend growing, that if it continues, could be the catalyst for that departure.

Most of the comments have been around the new T&T material. There is a phrase that I have heard used by Awana leaders, commanders (Awana Ministry Directors), and missionaries. Generally the local club is parroting what the missionary has stated. The phrase, “Awana is not going to police the local club”.

I have seen a missionary post the following,

If a church and commander wants to record the progress of a T&T kid who is saying the verses and doing the work in an essentials book, and if that church wants to award that child a first-book or excellence award, Awana Clubs is not going to stop them.

I heard from another missionary that,

Churches are encouraged to be creative in covering material, and given authority to edit the program.  …

A church may combine or omit  sections to fit their calendar … If a clubber completes a church’s program, the clubber has earned the book award.

I have listened to clubs adding and deleting requirements to complete a handbook all under the guidance from Awana that the local church, “can do what they want, they will not be policed”.

My question is, where have the base standards of Awana gone? Is completion of the handbook required for handbook awards or not? Can handbook awards be issued for doing the Essentials handbook? It seems the answer from Awana is not consistent. In webinars and videos it is clearly stated that the Essentials book does not qualify for handbook awards, yet missionaries are publicly stating that the local club can because they will not be policed.

In a Facebook group, a commander (ministry director) when reminded that the Essential books did not qualify for handbook awards responded, I know but I am doing it anyway.

I am not talking about options for the bring a friends section, special verse labels, or other items that Awana has officially provided options to help children. I am talking about the basics of Awana, the standards that all clubs should follow.

I have been taught that integrity is what you do when no one is looking. If the posted speed limit is 65 and I know that the roadway is not being policed, then is it legal to drive 80 mph? No, the base standard still exists. Just because the road is not policed does not make it permissible to exceed the posted limit. Likewise, just because the local club is not being policed by Awana, the base requirements should be followed.

If base standards of Awana are disregarded, with missionary endorsement, then Awana has lost credibility with the colleges that offer scholarships. It puts clubs/churches in awkward scenarios as children move from one club to another if one club offers handbook awards for the Essentials book and the new club only provides those same handbook awards for actually completing the full handbook (the base requirement). If there are no base standards, than there is no solid foundation (other than the Gospel) for clubs.

On a personal level, as I share what Awana has stated is expected as a base standard, it is disheartening to receive a response from a missionary, or Awana leader, that those base standards do not really matter, a club can do what they want because they will not be policed. At that point, the standard is gone. A club can choose to provide as many helps as they want, remove sections they think are too hard, or add sections they think should be required, because Awana is not going to police them.

If integrity is what one does when no one is watching; then as clubs modify base requirements because they are not being policed, they are reflecting a lack of integrity. If Awana permits missionaries to advise clubs that they can disregard base requirements, because they will not be policed, then all requirements should be abandoned. Training becomes moot when at the end of training about the base requirements a missionary, or trainer, concludes with, but you can do whatever you want, you will not be policed.

Will this disturbing trend continue, where missionaries provide permission to modify the material requirements and base standards because they will not be policed? Or will we see missionaries supporting the base requirements, admonishing clubs to follow them, whether they are policed or not?

I hope that it is the latter.




Updated: November 3, 2017 — 8:38 am

The Author


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  1. I respect your opinion on this however there does need to be some room for interpretation. For example, the new T&T materials are based on a club year that is 4 or more weeks longer than many clubs currently schedule. Based on your statements, would you support HQ mandating that all clubs move to the same schedule? Should all clubs be mandated to use the “Fast Track” component even if it’s an abysmal failure and results in kids not completing sections (because parents don’t get their kids there early, nor do the leaders)? If a club does not want to adopt the new format as written should they be unable to use it? It seems that there needs to be a level of “customization” necessary so that clubs can meet the needs of their kids. It seems to me that more churches would leave if they cannot use the material as they see fit.

    1. How many weeks, whether a club utilizes the “Fast Track” (which is not mentioned in any discussions from Awana this year and the terminology has been removed for Evidence of Grace materials), and other items that you reference are permissible options for clubs based on the schedule and culture.

      The base standard is that there are 32 sections to be completed to earn all 8 handbook patches culminating in the receipt of the appropriate handbook award.

      Does the handbook award hold the same value if a club meets 28 weeks and a clubber only receives (7) awards as opposed to (8)? Does it hold the same value if the clubber recites the verse in the Essentials book and does none of the Bible study and receives it as the clubber who completes all of the studies and the reviews? Those are the base standards/requirements that I am referencing.

      Even if a club allows a child to move at their own pace, they should still be required to complete all of the work. Adopting the format, as you reference, is not the point. It is requiring the full content of the material to be completed for handbook awards, not selecting what to use and what not to use.

      Would you deem it acceptable for a club that only meets 24 or 26 weeks to only require 24 or 26 sections to be completed to receive the handbook award? That is what I am referencing as being a base standard which is being minimized, not the format, order of the club, etc which you have referenced.

  2. Unlike the previous post, We start and end with our school year and can finish the books IF clubbers do not miss too much and are willing to make up missed verses. I agree that I cannot have my club giving awards not earned that might negatively impact a clubber changing to another church. In fact in our area churches are dropping AWANA right and left so we are picking up clubbers from some of those churches.

    I do feel however that if we have clubbers with true learning challenges (not just lazy), the Essentials should be an option for at least the book awards but not quality for scholarships. I like the ‘One Mission Many Methods”, idea but I agree there should be minimum standards. I wonder if AWANA is just trying not to lose more churches. I hope that is not the driver.

  3. When we had our registration night, we showed all parents and clubbers both options. We knew that most families would choose the Essentials material. Most of our clubbers will not earn a book award because of poor attendance or lack of parental support. We are in a very tough, inner city neighborhood where kids come from tough, difficult situations.

    We made it very clear that families who chose to work in the essentials, the clubber will NOT earn a book award. The clubbers that are working in the handbook are doing well and keeping up with the demands of the material. The clubbers that are working in the Essentials book are hearing God’s word and can participate in small group, even if attendance is poor. We are thrilled with the results we are seeing this year.

    Thanks for the reminder that hard work pays off and integrity matters.


  4. Thank you, Bill. I’ve read much of what you said on the FB page and found it very disheartening. We go by the basic standards and have never had a problem. We use the “special needs” verses if there is truly a need. We have a club of about 40 T&T boys and girls – only 1 uses those verses. We encourage, we help, we pray… and we give out a lot of rewards at the end of the year. Our standards are basic but high… we plan to keep it that way.

  5. I understand what you are saying Bill. While I think there is some room, no standards means…

    I do want to defend missionaries. It seems you singled them out but I don’t think it is meant to denigrate them. No missionary would advise like that if not directed by the leadership at Awana Clubs International. That should be the place to ask the questions.

    1. Daniel,

      You are correct. Missionaries are noted because they are the voice of Awana to the local club and who I personally have the most direct contact. In the second quote that I share, that is the understanding that the missionary has based off of the response, direction, given from their leadership. I was surprised, shocked actually, to know that Awana leadership had provided that answer/guidance to the missionaries – and if there were “rogue” missionaries sharing this on their own, or misunderstanding, then my hope would be that they would be directed to correct these statements and approaches by their leadership.

      Thank you for your comment.

  6. Commander Bill, I fully understand your comments here. The upholding of standards is one of the things that make Awana Awana. When you meet someone and find out they were in Awana, the next question “how far did you go” is inevitable. If the answer is, “Timothy”, or “Meritorious”, or “Citation”, it is generally understood what amount of work went into that. To drop the standard, at best, adds “What Church?” to the conversation, or worse… the dreaded “annual participation trophy”. I hope they uphold, and issue appropriate clarification.

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