Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

The Problem with Awana

As I hope you are aware, I have been attending the first Blogger bloggersummit01Summit ever held by Awana. This was a big step for Awana, entering a new arena of communication and networking. There was apprehension by some, and great acceptance by others. This is nothing new for Awana, or any organization, even people for that matter. Personally, this blogger summit is a new venture for me. Traveling alone via airplane, to a city I did not know and any number of things could go wrong. It would be easier for me to have stayed home and used these few vacation days to rest or work on projects in the comfort of my home. There was apprehension on my part, though I really wanted to be here. Ultimately, I accepted being a part of this summit and I’m glad I pushed past the apprehension.

That is how any change is perceived, with apprehension by some, acceptance by others. Awana has experienced this with almost every change they’ve made, but at some point, like I did, you cannot let apprehension get a hold of you leaving you afraid to try something new and innovative, you must make a move, or become stagnant and ineffective.

I’ve been “connected” with Awana in some form for about 20 years and I’ve seen many things. Some good, some great, and some I’ve questioned. I tried to ask some “hard questions” during this Blogger Summit and shared things from a perspective that only I could give from the group of bloggers assembled (I’ll share some of that in later posts). As I’ve shared with various people here at Awana, I was surprised that many of my comments resonated with them. It shows me they are aware of the “issues” and concerns around them. Often when people offer constructive comments to me, I’m already aware and working on a solution. I found this true today of Awana as I interacted with various personnel during the first part of the summit.

There are two “problems” with Awana I want to share now.

First is communication. This probably comes as no surprise and is part of the reason for the Blogger Summit. In any organization, and you may experience it in your church or club, plans are made for an event, or whatever, and the people planning are so engaged in the planning that it envelopes their daily routine. It becomes a part of them and since they are discussing it so much among themselves, they think others know details when they have not communicated it outside their circles well, if at all, until it is time to take place. I have been guilty of this as well. Awana has realized this and is working to better communicate to the “outside world”.

Secondly, and this is just as important, the way God is using Awana to change the world is one of the greatest secrets around. As just a small portion of the way Awana is reaching children around the world was shared with the bloggers, most, if not all (except for myself) had no clue that Awana was having such a drastic, positive, impact on the lives of children around the globe. Awana is seen simply as a mid-week program (club) by a large majority of people in the United States. Sometimes it is seen as a self-contained program within the church. So why is it that the larger reach of Awana is not known? Is it because Awana does not do a good job of communicating what God is doing in their midst? Is it because the local club is not concerned with anything Awana does outside of being a provider of material for their local church?

Yes, it may be a little of both. Now I may offend some people, but I tend to think that the second question is more of the reason why than the first. The reason behind that statement? Talk to almost anyone (I say almost because you can never make a “blanket statement”) who has led a workshop at an Awana conference on what Awana is doing internationally and see how many people attend those workshops. The numbers are generally a very low percentage of conference attendees. There simply is no apparent interest in what Awana is doing except for the how to run a local club in many cases.

So how can Awana communicate better with the local church/club? How can the story of what God is doing through Awana (domestically and internationally) be told? And how does Awana get churches/clubs to see and catch the vision of reaching more children? Please share any thoughts you may have on this below.

Let me add a third problem with Awana…. children were being left out. Imagine holding your gametime in a fenced in area, much like a school playground, and standing outside the fence looking in were a myriad of children, or even just one child, looking in, longing to be a part. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Yet it was reality in parts of the world as clubs could not allow children in to hear the Gospel because of lack of supplies, funds, etc.

What would you do if you saw children standing outside your Awana club wanting to join in? Would you keep them out, or would you welcome them in and worry about finances, materials, etc. later?

I know what I would do. It would break my heart to see a child excluded and I would do whatever I could to have them be a part and hear the Gospel. That was the biggest problem of Awana, both domestically and internationally. There were children being excluded because of man-made barriers. How can we say we want to reach children and youth to come to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus, when they’ve been “locked out”? You can’t. So with the problem comes a solution.

That’s what will be shared over the next few weeks as Awana prepares to publicly announce their plans to re-align the message with the mission. To reach all children to come to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus.

And yes, I asked the one question that is probably forefront in your mind. “How will this announcement, and plan, affect my Awana club?” It won’t. The local club will continue to be supported as it is now. The current club model is not slated for extinction because it is one tool that has worked, and still works, effectively having a great impact on many children, youth and adults. Why discard something that works effectively for many? You can enter the 2014-15 year knowing that Awana Clubs will continue to be an effective tool to reach children to come to know, love and serve the Lord Jesus, with modifications to the Ultimate Adventure and Trek as noted earlier this year.

Continue to follow our tweets using the hashtag #Awana14Launch to keep up to date on what we are learning and to keep up to date as more information becomes available over the next few weeks.


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