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Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

Why Did Awana Begin?

If you are a student of Awana, then you have probably studied a little bit of the history of Awana. From the Awana website we can see that “aya[Awana] began as a children’s program at the North Side Gospel Center in Chicago in 1941. Lance Latham, North Side’s senior pastor, collaborated with the church’s youth director, Art Rorheim, to develop weekly clubs that would appeal to churched and non-churched kids, lead them to trust Christ for salvation and grow them in enduring faith and service to God.

The intended purpose was not to start a club, but to reach kids with the Gospel. Along the way the question became, “How do we start more clubs?” While clubs were, and still are, an effective tool, it became the only tool, and sometimes had to much focus.

Interesting fact….. I almost started a fight at Awana. We were talking about a scenario where a new youth pastor was going to eliminate the Awana program and use their own curriculum. People were outraged! I made the comment around our table that Awana wasn’t for every church. Blasphemy!!!! You could literally cut the tension with a knife, maybe a chain saw, it was that thick.

At another table, someone mentioned that they were looking for a children’s pastor/director. I said to myself, “hmm, they’re hiring” (always looking at potential opportunities). Then they said something that would keep me from serving there. They said that Awana was non-negotiable. I couldn’t believe it. Non-negotiable! That meant if God were to move the church in a different direction, they would resist and not be open to God’s leading. Any change would be a battle.

Okay, sounds like I’m not an Awana fan. That’s not the case. I believe that Awana is a premiere children’s ministry for many reasons. But when people begin to worship the club, and not the God of the club that we are trying to lead people to, then we have a big problem.

The mission of Awana is to reach boys and girls with the Gospel of Christ, and train them to serve Him. So they come to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus. It is not to start clubs, that is the tool used to reach boys and girls for several years, and is still used effectively today.

What if that tool is not the right tool for the job? Do we walk away? What if the club setting is not reaching children? Do we walk away? No two Awana clubs are identical. We adapt the peripherals to reach the children/youth in our area, while keeping the core the same because we want to reach kids with the Gospel.

Awana is focusing on being mission true. That mission is to reach boys and girls with the Gospel of Christ. The question is no longer “how do we start more clubs?”, but rather, “how do we reach more kids?”

Awana is working to remain mission-true. There’s a reason it is no longer called “Awana Youth Association”. Things change, but the core of the mission remains the same.

So, how do we reach more kids? Please share some thoughts below by commenting.

 

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3 Comments

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  1. I’d like to have input on something I’ve been mulling over and praying about. Would you say that Awana is an outgrowth of a healthy children’s ministry? If families are leaving or visiting and not staying because the core components of children’s ministry are not effectively helping parents in discipling their children, Awana is affected, too. I’m afraid the branch (Awana) will die because the tree (CM) is diseased. Do I continue to invest my time and resources in Awana or do I suggest setting Awana aside for now to focus on rebuilding CM? I may encounter that same stance – “Awana is a non-negotiable.”

    1. Traci,

      Here is my perspective….

      Would you say that Awana is an outgrowth of a healthy children’s ministry?

      I would say that it could be an outgrowth, but not necessarily. One ministry component in the church can be healthy and vibrant while others are stagnant, or not healthy.

      Do I continue to invest my time and resources in Awana or do I suggest setting Awana aside for now to focus on rebuilding CM?

      I think the thing to do is to evaluate and identify the “problem”. It is seldom “the program” used, but rather the vision and passion people have for reaching others.

      If Awana is effective, and other aspects of CM are not, then to discontinue Awana would be an error and possibly perceived as being ineffective. Cutting off the one branch that is bearing fruit.

      One book I would recommend reading is entitled, The Return of a Mighty Church by Jack Eggar

      If Awana is running effectively, then it could revitalize the entire church.

      If the problems are rooted deep, then a hiatus might be in order to refocus on the mission of the church.

      One final question I would ask from your original comment, is Awana a core component of children’s ministry? If you answer yes, and the core components of children’s ministry are not effectively helping parents in discipling their children, then why is Awana not effective? Is it time to re-train and re-focus leaders?

      I’ll be praying for you as you ponder these questions and discover what needs to be done within your church. It only takes one spark to start a fire, that spark may be you. Revival often begins with children and youth.

      Get the book I referenced and see if that offers you any insight. It is a small, quick read and well worth the time.

      1. Thanks, Bill, for your comments. They are very helpful and encouraging to me and give me much to think on. I have read the book you suggested, but maybe it is time to reread it now that I have a year “under my belt” as commander. You’ve helped me see two things I’d lost focus of: 1) That Awana IS running effectively and COULD be the spark the church needs to reignite its passion to reach the lost in our community, and 2) Awana is a core component of our children’s ministry! How could I have lost sight of that?!?! I’ve printed your response and will be doing much praying over these things. Thanks for taking the time to offer your insights.

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