When Awana changed their 3rd – 6th grade program a number of years ago, some said that they were dumbing down the material. Then Awana revised that material, moving some verses to the extra credit Silver sections. Again, the comment by some was that they were dumbing down the material.
Next came the long overdue revision to the Sparks program and once again we heard the cry that Awana was dumbing down the material.
DISCLAIMER: I am not employed by Awana and these are purely my own thoughts and views from my experiences and what I have heard as I travel in “Awana circles”.
I often wonder what people mean when they say the material is being “dumbed-down” and I am intrigued by the statement. I find that generally people who say that the material is being dumbed down are those who looked at the graphics of the handbooks and commented, or counted how many “new” verses were being recited compared to the previous material. I do not recall anyone comparing the message that is brought out with the material. The message that Jesus died for our sins, rose again and desires that fellowship with Him. The T&T program also lays a foundation that teaches the child how to defend their faith which was not present in the previous material.
The other thing that I have noticed is that these comments generally come from families that homeschool their children and the Awana program is used, in some form, as part of the homeschool curriculum. I know a missionary who received a phone call from someone vehemently complaining that Awana had “dumbed down” the program and the missionary shared that Awana is not designed to be homeschool curiculum, but rather to reach children for Christ and also to help them grow in Him.
Often people making these claims are looking at the material through the “eyes” of a child who was raised in the church and is versed in the basics of the Christian faith. But Awana is not just for the “church kid”. In fact, it is for the “unchurched child” who does not know Jesus. Try looking at the material through the eyes of a child who has never been to church, who struggles in school because of “issues” at home. Is the material “dumbed down” for them, or do they see it as difficult?
So while there are those who will continually say that Awana is dumbing down their materials, I would tend to disagree. I see Awana working to reach that lost child while trying to build a strong faith in the children who know Jesus. Do not just look at the number of “new” verses a child learns, or the graphics to judge the material. look at the content. Has the Gospel been dumbed down? Personally, I don’t think you can “dumb” the Gospel down, God made it very simple, eventhough we sometimes complicate it.
So to conclude, do not just look at the graphics, or the number of verses being memorized. The graphics are a tool to help reach the children, and God does not care how many verses we know, but rather how we followed Him. Look at the content, the message, and evaluate if it reaches and teaches children where they are. If you truly believe that Awana is “dumbing down” the material, I would be interested in knowing why you believe that, specifically. Feel free to respond to this post, on my FaceBook page, or via e-mail. I look forward to your thoughts.