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Awana Clubs: Kid-Friendly, Bible-Based...and FUN!
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By Haydn Jensen

A Haydn Jensen interview with John Froom- Awana missionaries for the Southwestern Ontario Region

Most people have ideas about the Bible. Wouldn't it be great if your kids' ideas were based on first-hand knowledge rather than other people's ideas? Well, that's been at the heart of the Awana organization since it began in 1950. The name itself is an acronym: Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, based on 2 Timothy 2:15—"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth." Originating and still based in the Chicago area, Awana describes itself as "the only organization with fully integrated evangelism and discipleship programs for ages 2 to 18 that actively involve parents, church leaders and mentors. Each week, more than 1.5 million kids, 250,000 volunteers and 300-plus field staff take part in Awana in over 25,000 churches in the U.S. and internationally."

Awana Clubs International may be a broad organization, but each Awana club is based in a specific local church. Recently, I met with John Froom, who with his wife Marion serve as Awana missionaries for the Southwestern Ontario Region. John provides a clear picture of what Awana is all about and the opportunities available locally for London kids and parents to be involved. Awana is nondenominational and here in London these churches currently offer the Awana program:
  • Forest City Bible Church
  • Lobo Baptist Church
  • Southdale Bible Chapel
  • Ministerio Camino de Albanza (in Spanish)

John told me that Awana's clear Gospel emphasis first drew him to become involved over 28 years ago. More than just that, John also likes the biblically sound priority of involving parents as much as possible. Awana Clubs International President/CEO Jack Eggar says, "Being effective in transforming children and youth into spiritual champions is something that takes both the church and the parents of the kids working in partnership." Awana offers their program to local churches and supplies leadership training, curriculum and materials all carefully designed to engage specific ages groups. Lessons, games and activities dovetail together to help children gain a solid understanding of the Bible. With a systematic children's ministry structure already in place, pastors, children's ministry staff and volunteers are then able to move forward and more effectively engage kids. John was also clear that he does not want parents to think, "send your kids to Awana and we'll teach them." Parents play a key role!

Meant to enhance rather than replace a church's existing Sunday School or children's ministry, Awana is available to congregations looking for a proven approach to child evangelism and discipleship in their church and community. John will visit an interested congregation, share a multimedia presentation, answer questions and supply information to help the church decide if Awana is a good fit for them. Once the church decides to move ahead, John provides training for volunteers and helps the club get up and running.

Awana kids are grouped according to age into one of 6 groups, each with distinct uniform elements and teaching materials:
  • Puggle – Ages 2 and 3
  • Cubbies – Preschool
  • Sparks – Grades K to 2
  • T&T (Truth & Training) – Grades 3 to 6
  • Trek – Grades 7 and 8
  • Journey – High School

A typical Awana club meets midweek for about 90 minutes at the church. During that time, kids engage in various activities all geared to reinforce that week's particular scripture lesson. Game Time features exciting circle games exclusive to Awana—a popular draw for churched and non-churched children alike. Handbook Time provides small-group interaction and recitation of Scripture that kids learned during the week. It also features friendship building and opportunities for leaders to mentor children and help them understand the Bible verses they learn. Large Group Time consists of praise and worship, Bible teaching, awards, announcements and a presentation of God's plan of salvation.

Parents are encouraged to review their child's Awana workbook with their kids at home, going over lessons and activities to play an active role in shaping their children's understanding of the Bible. Scripture memorization plays an important role in the Awana education program, so both parents and children can benefit by perfecting memory verses together.

Achievement scores high in the Awana program as kids are tested and rewarded for learning Bible verses and other achievements. Awana books are divided into sections called Bible Challenges (for the T&T Club) and Red, Blue, and Green Jewels (for the Sparks Club). A child can earn awards as the year progresses, including badges for his/her uniform. To give you an idea of how the handbook lessons look, you can see a sample from the Sparks handbook here: http://awanacanada.ca/home/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/sparks-hangglider-sample-1.pdf (Notice the place near the end for leader's initials and signature to verify the child's progress.)

Throughout the year, Awana clubs also have opportunity to meet together with other Awana groups locally, regionally and even internationally at camp and conference events. Kids have fun at Awana. John told me of some local churches that had Awana years ago but discontinued. Recently, they said it was the worst mistake they made because now they don't have any kids—they are currently seriously considering restarting Awana!

In the U.S., Awana shares this finding:
A national survey found Awana to be as important to our alumni's spiritual foundation as all other church activities combined. Among alumni who participated in our programs for at least six years, 92.7 percent still attend church at least weekly as adults!

With such a carefully developed program, it's no surprise that Awana kids who end up in seminary as adults often find themselves well-grounded in Bible knowledge—even ahead of their peers!

Any church wishing to enhance its evangelism and discipleship efforts to children and their families should consider contacting John and Marion to explore the potential:
j.froom@awanacanada.ca

For more information on Awana International—Canada: http://awanacanada.ca/.