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Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

The Flaw of Mission: Grace in Action

This post may offend some, people may take it personally, but no individual is being referenced (unless noted). This is from the various comments I have heard from those in my circles – personal, via social media, Commanderbill.net, etc. It is not an exhaustive study/analysis, but my personal observations. I am not throwing a “blanket” over everything and implying that all clubs faced, or did, these things, though it may seem that way at times.

I encourage you to read the entire post and I welcome comments.


 

The new format for curriculum for Truth & Training (T&T) was introduced about a year ago amid questions and uncertainty. Optimism was held by many, but there was also a resistance. Change often faces those who want to keep the status quo. It was about 20 years ago when I heard that there were people encouraging children’s ministry leaders to not use Awana because it had not changed for decades and it was no longer relevant to reach children. It was shortly thereafter that Awana introduced Truth & Training, the first major change to the curriculum and what many of you know and love was met with great resistance, very similar to what we have seen and heard over this past year.

So on to the part of the post that you want to read, the part some of you hope will confirm your criticisms and others cringe concerned what may follow. The following observations are in no particular order and I encourage you to read the entire post. Here are the flaws I see with the Mission: Grace in Action:

I commend Awana on doing a much better job communicating about the curriculum via videos/webinars, samples, e-mails, etc. There are a few flaws I see regarding that communication.

First, referencing the “All Together” method. I see this as a flaw because there was a movement started with the former T&T material to have a schedule of sections. There was already some “push-back” on that format and terminology by many clubs where it “didn’t work” for them while others thrived. I believe that using that terminology confused what Awana was attempting to do by having the large group time lesson match the verses being memorized which many clubs had requested.

Secondly, comparing the new curriculum to Cubbies where they have two books which rotate with total teaching time. When this was done, it led many to believe that they were “dumbing down” the material using a format geared for pre-schoolers. I faced this first hand while at an Awana Ministry Conference where questions were raised when the new material was compared to Cubbies. It may have been better to have related it to the AwanaYM materials which have always had a common lesson and verse to memorize. Why the comparison to Cubbies? Because more clubs understand how Cubbies work because they have Cubbies, very few of those clubs know, or understand how AwanaYM curriculum is designed and used.

Third, there was not a clear explanation of how clubs should use the material. Awana serves over 10,000 churches in the United States. These churches vary in size, structure, culture, version of the Bible, and more. No ministry can produce a “one size fits all” product. How a church of 300 clubbers functions will vary from a church of 100 clubbers, which will vary from a church with 10 clubbers. There is a preferred method that Awana designed for the curriculum; however, knowing that each church is unique, Awana allows options. The issue I saw was that often the answer was simply “you can do what you want” which really did not guide the leaders asking, but left them floundering for answers on how they should handle the material in their setting. Some did not fully grasp the preferred teaching method and trained, and encouraged, clubs to do it they way they felt was best without looking at their specific scenario. Personally, I would have liked to see a webinar focused on small to medium sized clubs. Some did not train their small group leaders well so they struggled. Some clubs had flaws in one, or more areas as the transitioned to the new materiel. As for options and ways to institute the new materiel in your club, I inquired of a field test church who looked at the big picture and shared various ways to use the material based on your club make up. You can read that here…

Admittedly, it is difficult for an individual hosting a webinar to look at each club’s situation as questions are being asked. That is where the Awana missionaries and their ministry teams could be a huge asset, to help the individual clubs see their options and work with them throughout the year.

What followed as the new material was released was what I had predicted. Some embraced it while others complained about the material. Some clubs viewed all of the webinars to try to educate themselves. They attended local training and may have even consulted with their local missionary. Others purchased the material and tried to learn on the fly.

This is the flaw I see in the local club. Some were resistant to the change in any form. They began to find flaws as they compared it to the former material, to the way they were used to “doing Awana”. Clubs who encountered difficulties and said “how can we work with this” did well, those who continued to resist stumbled along. People began to focus on verse counts, verse length, structure, etc instead of discipling the children and as leaders complain, the clubbers know you do not like the material, and if you do not like it, they will not like it and the “problems” feed off of themselves and grow. Please keep in mind that there is a difference between complaining and saying that you are struggling with something and asking for suggestions.

Awana is made of people. Like you, they are not perfect.  Like you, they want to reach kids for Christ. They listen to your feedback, even if you don’t think that they have heard you. As we enter a new year and the 2nd book is released, I’m sure that there will be more complaints as they have modified the materials based on feedback and I’m sure that there will be complaints as they tweak and release the retrofitted Mission: Grace in Action books in 2018.

I am going to be blunt. With the introduction by Awana of the new T&T material, you have two choices:

  1. Accept it and adapt
  2. Drop Awana and find a different resource provider to disciple the children in your ministry

They are your choices. Yes, some churches have dropped, others have seen the benefit of the material and have begun Awana. We all use Awana because we see how it reaches children and youth, teaching them the Word of God. The question becomes, will you accept it and adapt, or will you walk away?

If you are struggling, contact Awana, contact your local missionary, I even invite you to contact me. If you choose to contact me, I will do my best to look at your specific situation and offer options.

Think of it this way. With the former T&T material, you had it tweaked to work in your church culture, in your church setting. You were comfortable. It is now time to evaluate the new T&T material and tweak it to work in your church culture.

I could share more about specific content that people have commented regarding the new material, but the bottom line is either you adapt, or walk away. I am pleased with the direction Awana is headed with the new material. Yes, transitions (changes) can be difficult and they must be handled well. As a leader, you cannot cast vision if you are looking at the flaws without seeking a remedy.

How will you proceed into year number 2? For some, you will make the transition this year, others may wait a little longer. There will still be decisions to be made by clubs on how to handle the new material as the books are released over the next few years. Yes, it will be different. I leave you with this question, will you be able to adapt or will you focus on flaws?

 

The Author

1 Comment

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  1. So why not offer both? Textbook manufacturers offer multiple versions of their books. It would allow Awana to maintain market share and perhaps increase it. Between those that walk away and those that join I would predict to be a minimal change if any.

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