Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

Is Awana Non-Negotiable?

I almost started a fight at Awana Headquarters. It’s true, the tension was so thick that you could “see” it and as they say, you could “cut it with a knife”. So much so that someone else had to divert the conversation around the table to try to diffuse the situation.

So what did I do that caused that tension? I simply made the comment that Awana wasn’t for every church. I was not prepared for the response I received.

I was at Awana for some training and we were given  a scenario to discuss. The scenario was that a new youth pastor was hired at the church and there was talk that they were planning to replace Awana with a curriculum they wrote for their Master’s Degree. What would you do?

I was amazed that people were so adamant about Awana and that they really believed that Awana was for EVERY church. A little later, during the group discussion about it, someone said that in their search for a new children/youth pastor – I quickly perked up and said to myself, hmm their hiring 🙂 – but then they said something that would keep me from serving in that church, or any church like it. They said that Awana was “non-negotiable”. I even had someone in my church mention to me that they felt every church should have Awana.

I’m sure you realize that I am “big” on Awana and I believe that it is one of the best, if not the best, program available to reach and teach children (and their families) about God. My issue is that when someone says it is non-negotiable, then they are saying that they are not open to the Holy Spirit and what God may have for the church. If Awana is “non-negotiable”, then what else is non-negotiable. Awana would have become a “sacred cow” and worshiped as the only way to reach kids.

Likewise, if a person says that Awana should be in EVERY church, then they are saying that God cannot use any of the several other programs available that are being used to reach many children for Christ.

Now I feel I need to emphasize that I am not saying to abandon Awana. I promote Awana and I believe that a well run Awana program will be used mightily by God. I’m simply saying that it is one of many programs available and we need to be careful not to “worship” the program. Be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and never say something is non-negotiable (except for the Truth of the Gospel), you don’t know what God may want to do that you are hindering.

The bottom line is to use what is effective to reach the children in your sphere of influence.

(Tomorrow I will write about why some Awana clubs fail)

Updated: February 1, 2011 — 6:21 am

The Author


  1. As an engineer, I’m fond of saying “use the right tool for the job” — and I think that Awana (and 24/7) are excellent all-purpose tools … but I agree with you that Awana may not be the right tool for all churches — in fact, I have seen Awana programs at churches that have been mis-used and really should be shut down because it’s not the right program for them.

    “Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1)

  2. I also believe that at times, some churches should join together for their Awana. Awana at one, perhaps UpWards at another. It gets kids together to share their Christianity and not to feel that their church is exclusive. I am a VERY BIG fan of Awana. I have seen what it can do if the leadership is trained and working with the zeal of the Holy Spirit. The leadership can also be shared with those of like faith. I do agree that if a church is using the term Awana, it needs to BE basically an Awana program.

  3. I have to agree with you. Awana is the best program out there, but some Churches can’t do it. Sometimes, a Church is so small that for example, the games that are designed for 4 teams don’t work. I also agree that having multiple Churches work together to do Awana is very effective – I’ve seen it done at two of the 4 clubs I’ve been involved in since I was a kid. I agree with your statement that saying Awana is non-negotiable is basically saying that God isn’t big enough to reach children any other way. As someone who teaches in a Christian school and who’s husband is in Christian camping I’d like to think that both of these “non-Awana” things are reaching kids for Christ.

  4. Bill,

    One of the things I like and admire about you is that, even though you are so closely identified with Awana, you are willing to say it isn’t for everyone.

    We do Awana at my church, and I love it! I love running the games and interacting with the kids. I love the counsel times and the scripture memorization. I love most aspects of it as a parent and as a participant. That said, there is only one perfect thing in life, and we worship Him. To think that something is infallible or non-negotiable is tantamount to idolatry. We have to remember that the message is eternal and the method is temporal. Churches were teaching kids about Christ long before Awana started, and in all likelihood, will be doing the same long after it is gone. Let’s get passionate about the message and not the method.

    Thanks again for your honesty and transparency.

    Take care!

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