Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

Handbook Time or Small Groups?


If you have been involved in Awana for any length of time, then you’ve seen several changes. I remember when the club segments were called game time, handbook time and council time. Gametime has maintained the same name, but council time has become large group time and handbook time fluctuates between handbook time and small group time. During the latest training, there is a line in the video explaining the typical T&T club night that says, “Handbook time is where they meet in small groups…” That leads me to ask the question, what do you call that segment? Handbook time or small groups? Does it really make a difference?

You may say that it doesn’t matter….. but I think it does. What you call it shows how you perceive that time. Let me explain what I mean….


uc_section_requiredHandbook time implies that the sole purpose of the time is to focus on the handbook and completing sections. Sometimes the children are memorizing verse but not knowing why they are memorizing them (except for the award) or what they mean. Yes, God’s Word does not return void, but shouldn’t there be more?

I know that many clubs struggle to give the children enough time to complete the sections that they have ready, while others struggle to get children to participate. How to handle handbook time is always a popular topic at conferences because so many struggle with it. I think that might be because leaders and clubs place too much focus on the handbooks and completing sections. When the handbook sections are done, they are not prepared to “fill” the balance of the time, then “behavior issues” may arise in the time void of activities or conversations.

Small Groups implies more interaction, more investment, in the children. Time is taken in prayer for one another, relationships are built, encouragement is given, and more. During this time, the children learn more about how to follow Jesus from a personal level and that they are not alone in the struggles they face. In this way, we are truly reaching the children. As relationships are built, you can speak into their lives and share why memorizing God’s Word is important and encourage them to do so via the Awana handbooks.

This year, I’m a director of T&T Ultimate Adventure boys (3rd & 4th grade) in a church I’ve recently began to attend. I’m learning how this club does things, but it gives me freedom to try other things because I don’t know “what’s always been done” and I can plead innocence (shhh, don’t tell them I said that). I also have some “new leaders”, so they won’t have that “history” to pull from either. I am going to focus on calling this time “small group time” and emphasize the need to build relationships with the clubbers. I plan to have a few moments after large group time for the small group to have some discussion questions and have a time of prayer in the group. The effort to reach kids by building relationships will be a big part of my emphasis this year.

So how about you? What do you call it? Handbook time or small groups? Is your emphasis on handbook completion, or reaching a child “where they are”?

I know some may not agree with me as I talk about small groups. I’m okay with that. I would only ask you one question (and I really hope you’ll answer and share), if you focus mainly on completing handbooks and sections during handbook time, then what part of the night do you use to build relationships with the children?

Please, share your thoughts in the comment section below…..


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