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 “[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.