Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

Awana is "Dumbing Down" Their Curriculum

When Awana changed their 3rd – 6th grade program a number of years ago, some said that they were dumbing down the material. Then Awana revised that material, moving some verses to the extra credit Silver sections. Again, the comment by some was that they were dumbing down the material.

Next came the long overdue revision to the Sparks program and once again we heard the cry that Awana was dumbing down the material.

DISCLAIMER: I am not employed by Awana and these are purely my own thoughts and views from my experiences and what I have heard as I travel in “Awana circles”.

I often wonder what people mean when they say the material is being “dumbed-down” and I am intrigued by the statement. I find that generally people who say that the material is being dumbed down are those who looked at the graphics of the handbooks and commented, or counted how many “new” verses were being recited compared to the previous material. I do not recall anyone comparing the message that is brought out with the material. The message that Jesus died for our sins, rose again and desires that fellowship with Him. The T&T program also lays a foundation that teaches the child how to defend their faith which was not present in the previous material.

The other thing that I have noticed is that these comments generally come from families that homeschool their children and the Awana program is used, in some form, as part of the homeschool curriculum. I know a missionary who received a phone call from someone vehemently complaining that Awana had “dumbed down” the program and the missionary shared that Awana is not designed to be homeschool curiculum, but rather to reach children for Christ and also to help them grow in Him.

Often people making these claims are looking at the material through the “eyes” of a child who was raised in the church and is versed in the basics of the Christian faith. But Awana is not just for the “church kid”. In fact, it is for the “unchurched child” who does not know Jesus. Try looking at the material through the eyes of a child who has never been to church, who struggles in school because of “issues” at home. Is the material “dumbed down” for them, or do they see it as difficult?

So while there are those who will continually say that Awana is dumbing down their materials, I would tend to disagree. I see Awana working to reach that lost child while trying to build a strong faith in the children who know Jesus. Do not just look at the number of “new” verses a child learns, or the graphics to judge the material. look at the content. Has the Gospel been dumbed down? Personally, I don’t think you can “dumb” the Gospel down, God made it very simple, eventhough we sometimes complicate it.

So to conclude, do not just look at the graphics, or the number of verses being memorized. The graphics are a tool to help reach the children, and God does not care how many verses we know, but rather how we followed Him. Look at the content, the message, and evaluate if it reaches and teaches children where they are. If you truly believe that Awana is “dumbing down” the material, I would be interested in knowing why you believe that, specifically. Feel free to respond to this post, on my FaceBook page, or via e-mail. I look forward to your thoughts.

Updated: May 20, 2010 — 11:37 am

The Author

Commander Bill


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  1. I so agree Commander Bill. When we look at the goal being to “reach boys and girls with the Gospel of Christ and train them to serve Him” we need to consider the heart and minds of the children we are attempting to reach. So many are already feeling like failures in school and life. How can we get them to fall in love with the Word of God and the Savior and the church, which is the tool God will use their whole lives to edify and teach them? The Awana materials need to keep the Gospel message and train but in a way that will encourage those children to continue wanting to come! Thanks for your good work, Dona

  2. What about now? 2016 and the revisions to TREK, with Journey soon, & T&T coming again.

    1. I am using the “new” Trek material for the second year and I see in depth conversations taking place about the Gospel, and about the things of God. In my group, it is helping the group process why they believe what they believe so they can share intelligently with others. They are not being dumbed down, they are growing in the faith.

      I have not seen the upcoming Journey material so I cannot comment on that, but I am optimistic that I will see the same results as I am seeing with the Trek material.

      As to the updated T&T material, I stand by my comments in the original post. If you are merely counting verse memorized, then you can come to the conclusion that it is dumbed down.

      The prayer of Awana is that all children and youth around the world will come to know, love, and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

      The current T&T books are an obstacle to several children. The new T&T books will help reach many more children, helping them to learn, and understand, God’s Word. If a child whats the additional challenge, then there will be extra activities and Scripture to learn. I also anticipate deeper conversations with the T&T clubbers with the new material that will lead to further study of God’s Word, and further learning the things of God, that dovetail off of the discussions initiated by the updated material.

      Again, I stand by my original post. Thank you for asking.

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