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Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

Awana Club Tech and My Disappointment

 UPDATE:

Shortly after I wrote this post, Awana did contact the developers of the two long-standing record-keeping products. People involved with the club tech project (now called Mozo) took the time to travel to meet with each of the developers for several hours sharing their vision and listening to the developers’ thought and concerns. The meetings were amicable and all parties left with a greater understanding of the “other side”. Awana has also begun to acknowledge these products by name.

As I noted in the original post, I know that the people leading Awana have a true desire to reach boys and girls with the Gospel of Christ. It is their passion. Over the years, some personnel has changed and there is now a greater acceptance, and understanding, of technology which did not exist for many years.

In this instance, Awana may have made a miss-step in the beginning, but they have worked to correct that. They have addressed my concerns and disappointment in the original post and for that, Awana is to be commended.

 


On November 20, 2014, Awana introduced the new Awana club technology on their blog. It is exciting how they seem to plan to integrate communication, Awana information, and record keeping into one package.  How this all looks, and functions, is yet to be seen. These are exciting times as they look into providing technology for clubs to allow leaders to focus on reaching kids and making administration easier and it has only taken them about 20 years to initiate this step.

The one disappointing thing for me personally about this introduction is this statement:

While other digital recordkeeping tools exist, the Awana solution meets your needs like none other.

There have been two record keeping products which have stood the test of time with thousands of clubs using them. They have worked to meet the local Awana club’s need for digital record keeping since they began offering their products, filling a void that clubs were desperately seeking. Clubs have sought this so much that other record keeping solutions have recently become available to clubs as options (from other sources, not Awana). Through the years, Awana has never publicly recognized, nor endorsed, third party record keeping databases designed specifically for Awana clubs. I once encouraged Awana to recognize them and several years ago I was told that Awana would. It saddens me that when Awana does finally publicly recognize them, they seem to be called inferior products.

I understand that business plays a factor in any ministry, I am personally disappointed that Awana did not consult with the two developers that have assisted Awana clubs for over a decade meeting the local clubs’ need, desire, for digital record keeping.

I would offer this open letter to Awana (Yes I know that people from Awana receive my weekly e-mail and posts):

There are two long-standing digital record keeping database products available that clubs have asked for and used for over a decade meeting a need you could not meet. I would simply ask that you contact them, consult with them and listen to their advice, if at this point they are willing to cooperate with you.

If this is purely business, acknowledge that. I know that at the core, Awana seeks to reach children and youth for Jesus and digital record keeping has been proven effective in meeting that goal.

As you reach out to churches, and others, to help you accomplish your goal, your vision, of reaching children & youth, I would hope that you would consult with others who have met a need you chose not to meet for several years in this endeavor.

Whatever you choose, my prayer is that God is glorified.

In closing, I have met several Awana missionaries and people working at Awana Headquarters. I know that their heart is to reach children and youth, I do not question that. I am simply disappointed that people working on this endeavor have chosen a path to not recognize the work these developers have done to meet a need that clubs were seeking two decades ago, that Awana chose not to meet.

Please take a moment and encourage the developers of the software product you use. Comment below and share how the record keeping software you use has been a blessing to your club and met your needs, helping you to better reach children & youth for Jesus.

 

The Author

11 Comments

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  1. I concur with your comments on this new initiative. As stated in a couple of other places on your website, our church uses ARK and we are pleased with the support provided by Dan Harding. I also know that for the annual fee that we pay him, I am treated as though I am his only customer. I’m fairly certain that I won’t have that feeling of intimacy with Awana HQ if their Club Tech product is to be a competitor to ARK, Approved Workman, etc. If I am to be swayed to move to Club Tech, it has to be equivalent or better in terms of functionality, price point, and customer service.

  2. i agree totally with your thoughts! I use Approved Workman and it is the best! I could not ask for better support from Rick Leffler and his team!!

  3. i have to admit I hadn’t heard about Awana’s attempt at this. We choose to use Approved Workman and love it. I would say that you raised some good questions and wonder if anyone will respond from Awana. I do hope they will retract their statement and do something that benefits the kingdom not their bottom line.

  4. Bill, Thank you for your passion for ministry and to reach kids for Christ with the Gospel! It was great meeting you back in April, and I look forward to seeing you again soon. Will you be at CPC? I hope so; let’s grab lunch together. As you know, Awana is a global ministry that equips leaders to reach kids in 108 countries. We are currently in the early phases of developing a global, mobile ecosystem (Phase One = Club Tech) to equip leaders not only in churches and clubs here in the US, but around the world . . . even in contexts where ministry is incredibly challenging. The mobile system we are building is quite different in scope than what is currently available, and understandably so as we are accountable and responsible for a global leadership infrastructure. Although there will be some basic, similar features (like record keeping, etc.) our ultimate goal is to develop technology that supports the global mission of Awana (not just a club management tool for clubs here in the US . . . that’s just one small part of what we are stewarding for Awana globally). As Awana’s mission of equipping leaders to reach kids continues grow around the world, we must support the demand in leadership development, training and mobilization. It’s nearly impossible to steward a global children’s ministry without leveraging mobile, global technology. The cost of training, equipping and mobilizing leaders is more scalable when technology is leveraged effectively. Try to imagine Trans World Radio fulfilling their mission without investing in technology. Try to imagine FamilyLife not equipping families and marriages without investment in technology to equip couples and homes today. (just a couple of random examples). Every ministry with a global mission (and even US focused ministries) is having to address the leveraging of mobile technology to advance the ministry of the Gospel. Technology is no longer simply an accelerator of the product, in many cases it is a core part of the product. Our decision is motivated by stewardship, leadership and mission (Gospel). We are firmly committed to equipping leaders, commanders, volunteers and families, and it would not be wise to ignore communication and training best practices and how to best navigate in the rapidly changing world we live in today. As you can imagine, there are many conversations and decisions going on behind the scenes (including engaging key people in the field), and we have timelines and rollouts based on solid decisions, prayer and wise-godly counsel. As Awana has stated before when you were with us back in April, you should feel free to come to us directly and engage with us, ask questions, etc. and not have to feel the need to speculate publicly. It’s my goal for the Awana culture to be a transparent space so that people don’t resort to gossip, incomplete information and false assumptions about motives and actions as to breed confusion among the body of Christ . . . nobody wants that . Again, more information will continue to roll out soon. As you have questions, please feel free to reach out to any of our team members, including myself. It’s an exciting time! The mission to reach kids and families is HUGE and the Lord is at work . . . it’s a privilege and honor to know Him, Love Him and Serve him to the ends of the earth!

  5. Matt,

    Thank you for your comments. The question is not whether the use of technology is vital to ministry today, it is, and it is also a great challenge for organizations to find the proper use of it. That is not an easy undertaking and one that requires much maintenance and attention to keep current. The question was more of how Awana views those 3rd party providers of technology that Awana has historically been reluctant to provide.

    Awana has made great strides in better communicating with those it serves and what I heard in April intrigues me as to the path Awana is taking, even though not much detail was given. I have seen Awana doing great things utilizing technology, like the AwanaYM hangouts with Jeremy trying to connect with youth ministries across the country, the better use of social media, etc. I am eager to see how this tech initiative integrates with the various Awana clubs and I am excited as I hear some of what is being considered.

    As I stated numerous times, these are exciting times at Awana with the various initiatives taking place and one can sense the deep desire of everyone there to reach children, equip leaders, and change the world for the One True God.

    Unfortunately, the high cost to attend CPC East prohibits me from being there, though I would enjoy grabbing lunch with you sometime and talking ministry if the opportunity presents itself.

    I will reach out to you personally with questions and/or concerns I may have in the future.

    May God continue to bless you and Awana as you seek to reach children for Him.

  6. Hi Bill,

    I wanted to reach out to you personally. It’s important to me that you and your readers get as full a picture as possible about the club tech initiative. While club tech is definitely still in its early-building stages, I wanted to share a bit more about the motivation behind its development.

    Matt alluded to this in his response above, but I’d like to amplify one aspect a bit more. One of the greatest shifts in Awana in recent years has been in response to how God is using Awana internationally. The shift from a US-based ministry to a one characterized by global realities has motivated us to re-assess nearly every aspect of our organization; from how we engage churches to how we support those churches. It’s been nothing short of a top-to-bottom hard look in the mirror.

    That look has allowed us to see things that we otherwise would have missed. Things we (arguably) should have seen earlier. Club tech is one of those things.

    I want to assure you that the development of club tech is not motivated by a bigger bottom line. And, without any mention of price point, raw costs, or available premiums, it seems premature to assign club tech to purely business. Awana is never purely business. Rather, we consistently push ourselves to develop and launch resources that will serve churches well in their mission to reach kids and equip leaders.

    In your post above, you expressed disappointment with the following statement: “While other digital record keeping tools exist, the Awana solution meets your needs like none other.” As the editor of our blog, I don’t view that statement as a disappointment. In fact, I actually lean heavier on that statement. I truly believe that when the tech club initiative will live up to those expectations when launched. I trust that the team who is currently dreaming, designing, developing, and deploying club tech will deliver a quality product that serves churches, parents, and leaders in ways that are groundbreaking, innovative, and helpful.

    Will there be a few hiccups? Probably 🙂
    Will club tech deliver a resource that serves churches in a remarkable way? I believe so.

    But – here’s the key – club tech cannot be developed alone.

    We want to honor you and your readers by giving you the opportunity to join the pilot and help us. I invite you to join the pilot group and help us craft a tool that serves churches well. If your readers are happy with the resource that they’re currently using, that’s great! We wouldn’t want them to stop what’s working. But if they’d like to see something more than what’s currently offered – or if they’d simply like to join in club tech’s development – please come along! We’re simply asking for help. Personally, I know that your perspective would be incredibly valuable.

    I’d love to connect with you directly. Feel free to shoot me an email or reach out by phone when it’s convenient for you. (I believe you’ve got my cell from our event back in April). I’d love the opportunity to walk you through some more of the details surrounding this initiative. I’m always available to connect.

    These are definitely exciting times and I’m glad your along for the journey!

    – Brannon

  7. Bill,
    You hit the nail on the head. As soon as I received the email from Awana, my very first thoughts were of Rick Leffler with Approved Workman. Years ago when we started Awana at our church, tracking our club records with the paper system that Awana offered was a literal nightmare. I still think back to those days and shudder. I knew there had to be some thing better…and I found it in Approved Workman. Rick Leffler has gone above and beyond to meet the needs of Awana clubs with his amazing software. We could not run our club without it.

    Awana is not just any company…it is a Christian company seeking to reach boys and girls and their families with the Gospel. I would think it goes without saying that their business practices should be above board and honoring to the Lord. To me, branching out and developing the technology piece by Awana should have immediately started with reaching out to these two developers….offering to collaborate with them and work together.

    I feel that by switching to Awana’s technology then I am not being loyal to AW that has been there for us all along…..meeting a need when Awana was not interested in doing so. I feel like this Awana development has the potential to ruin the livelihood of two godly men who have been an amazing resource to Awana clubs around the country….it has helped us get through the record keeping piece quickly so we can focus more on sharing Christ with our clubbers and families.

    I am very disappointed in how Awana has handle this.

  8. Thanks for your info. I am reading this information after the fact, and I can tell you that I found MOZO to be a total disappointment!! I am requesting a refund. I’ve never used any other software, and was looking to move to an electronic system. I will look at the two mentioned. They spent a lot of time making it look pretty, but it is not functional. No place to hold contact information for clubbers, no place to keep track of other points, like uniform, bible, bringing friends or extra points. It would require you to use two systems.

    1. Ruth, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have not yet personally had the opportunity to login to Mozo and see it’s functionality, but I have been following comments from people who have had access and are attempting to use it in their clubs. There are others who share your concern. I am hopeful that over time, as Mozo is developed, that it does meet the expectations of people, but the start does not seem to be as stellar as anticipated.

  9. I too would like to thank Ruth for her comments. I’m doing a “Secretary-In-A-Box” workshop at an AMC this weekend and I hope that folks there will share their experiences with Mozo.

    Our church uses ARK and does not plan on purchasing Mozo this year. However, for our $99 fee, we are supposedly entitled to “Mozo’s Digital Library
    Access for all leaders to all of Awana’s amazing leader resources through the new Mozo platform”. I have not received any instructions from Awana HQ on how to do this. Any helpful hints from any readers of this blog?

  10. Just a quick update… after spending some time with Awana Customer Service, I found out how to activate and access the Mozo Classic Digital Library that comes with the $99 club registration fee. I’m quite pleased at what has been done and wonder why more isn’t done to get the word out to the majority who have access to this great resource for our $99, in addition to catering to those who paid for Mozo’s capability to take attendance, record handbook progress and awards. There is a successful marketing strategy that says, “give them something for free and maybe they will pay for the upgrade”. That’s what could (should?) be happening right now. I’m trying to do my part by giving my club leaders access to Mozo classic, as well as spreading the word at my AMC workshops.

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