Friday, December 29, 2017

What is Awana?

I gave a presentation on Awana to our church this fall.  I did a lot of research for it, and I thought I'd pass on some of the info.  (Especially since I talk about Awana all the time!)  This is info on the international ministry, and also info on Awana as a ministry at our church.

History of Awana

Awana was founded in 1951.  Lance Latham, pastor of a church on Chicago's north side, and Art Rorheim, the church's youth director, after seeing kids lined up outside a movie theater, came up with an idea to develop a club that would appeal to both children and non-children.  They wanted to see kids as excited to go to a club to learn about the Bible as they were to go see a movie.

What came out of that collaboration was a club that looked like a lot of popular clubs of that era, complete with uniforms, handbooks, pledges, and dues.

The founders of Awana landed on a method that worked, combining large group learning, classroom learning, and fun games to get children and youth excited to come to a place where they would learn and memorize God's Word.  This has proven an effective method that discipled children and gave them the knowledge and ability to reach out to share Christ with their friends.

Within 20 years of its founding, 900 churches had started Awana programs.  Today, there are over 10,000 clubs in the United States, reaching nearly 700,000 children each week.

In 1972, Awana began its first international club in Bolivia. Today, children and youth in 121 countries participate in Awana programs.  There are over 50,000 clubs worldwide, reaching over 4 MILLION children with the gospel of Christ each week!

What Is Awana?

You may keep listening to me say this word, Awana, and wonder what kind of a name that is. Awana (AWANA) stands for "Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed," and is derived from the King James translation of 2 Timothy 2:15, which says, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

History of Awana at OBC

Awana at Ottawa Bible Church began in 1989. At that time, the clubs still very strongly resembled the original model developed by Lance Lathan and Art Rorheim. At OBC, within the first few years, we were reaching well over 100 children every week.

Over the years, numbers have declined, both in attendees and volunteers, largely due to a cultural shift in Wednesdays not being regarded as a church night, so families are forced to choose between Awana and other activities. The last several years we have averaged around 50 children in preschool through middle school.

About Awana

Whereas the basic structure of Awana has not changed - each weekly meeting is made up of large group time, small group classroom time, and game time - there has recently been a shift in the Awana method. Our culture has shifted to the thinking that spiritual education is the job of the church. Awana is seeking to change that.

Awana has changed their curriculum to strongly emphasize spiritual learning should take place in the home, with parents as the teachers. The new curriculum encourages interaction and spiritual conversations between parents and children.

This method of coming alongside parents works.

In 1990, an 8 year old girl came to Awana here at OBC. Even though she knew all the Bible stories, Awana was the first place she heard the gospel message. She asked Jesus to be her Savior sitting right here in this auditorium. The teachers at Awana engaged her family, and came along side her parents and met them where they were at. Eventually this girl's family began attending Ottawa Bible because of the relationships they had made through Awana. The girl grew up and learned her faith through Awana and this church. She married a boy she became friends with through Awana. They now have kids of their own, and Awana is a tool that their family is using to teach their children the importance of Bible study and sharing the gospel. 

I know Awana works because this little girl was me.

Awana Statistics

Of Awana alumni, which is children who were involved in Awana for 6 or more years, 92% attend church regularly, 74% volunteer at their church 11 or more hours each month, and 70% share their faith with friends at least once a month.

To make statistics like this the norm, there is one thing that makes all the difference. That is volunteers.

Volunteers Needs

To make Awana run at OBC, we need an absolute minimum of 20 serving, to keep control of the kids and listen to verses.  To make it run well, be able to build relationships with children and parents, we need many more than that.

Many think they can't volunteer for children's ministry because they can't teach.  The thing I love about Awana, is that for the vast majority of volunteers, serving at Awana is a ministry where you can show up, be blessed, and go home.  There's no studying beforehand or supplies you have to bring.  You bring yourself and a heart ready to love on some kids.

If you aren't sure that kids are your thing, there are other ways and opportunities to serve around the Awana ministry.  We have a meal beforehand, and we need help preparing and cleaning up with that.  We need people to engage parents as they pick up and drop off kids.  There are possibilities to lead Bible studies with interested parents during the time their kids are here at Awana.  If you aren't sure where you'd like to help, but want to help in some way, I'd love to talk to you about getting you plugged in in an area that appeals to your strengths.

The other two major reasons people say they can't volunteer is distance and time.  For many of us, including myself, serving in church activities means a trip to Ottawa.  In our church, 2/3 of the families that regularly attend live outside of Ottawa  But, for whatever reason, God has brought us together in this community, and for any ministry the church puts on to succeed, some of us are going to have to make the commitment to make that trip.

The last and hardest area that is a hindrance to volunteering is time.  I want to leave you with a quote.

When parents are saying “I don’t have any time” to minister to youth, and the older generation is saying, “I’ve served my time” teaching kids, it leaves a generation of young people saying, “If nobody thinks it’s important enough to make the time, maybe this whole God thing isn’t worth my time.”

Awana is a ministry that can change lives, homes, and generations.  I think it's worth the time, and I'd like you to consider giving some of your time. 
Update:  We have nearly 40 teen and adult volunteers serving in Awana at Ottawa Bible Church this year!  We have had over 80 children register (including student leaders), with a regular weekly attendance of about 60.  All the glory goes to God!

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