This is part of a series called 24 Days of Thankfulness. These posts are in RANDOM order, NOT priority order. Each is something I am thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving.
DAY #17 : Awana and Sunday School
I was just serving at an Awana last night in Colorado Springs. I was reminded as I watched these clubbers of the impact of Awana in my own spiritual journey as I realized how blessed these kids are – and they don’t even realize it yet. For them, it’s just something fun their parents have enrolled them in.
Yet they are having a spiritual foundation laid that is going to serve them for the rest of their life. Some will come to Christ at club, others will memorize hundreds of Bible verses which will become the building blocks of spiritual thought that will form a biblical world view which will become the super structure upon which will be built a life of critical thinking. And I’m not over-stating it. Objective studies by outside researchers have found that most kids trained in Awana continue to faithfully follow Jesus as adults. (source)
Awana is also where I got my beginning as a children’s ministry worker. My first official volunteer position was as a Sparky Game Leader when I was a young boy. Serving in Awana taught me a lot about living for something outside of myself and what it meant to be a part of a Team reaching and teaching chidren… I was in barely into the junior high having just finished the end of what was then Awana Boys Club Pioneers. (Now T and T)
I have had or started an Awana Club in every full time ministry I have led.
Why? Because Awana has been the single most effective outreach ministry of the entire church. Hands down. Did you catch that? I did not say most effective in the children’s ministry – I said of the entire church. Every ministry I’ve been in, I’ve been a team member of the pastoral staff and blessed to serve on a staff that functioned as a team. (I know that is not always the case in children’s ministry, so I am thankful for this.) So I am well aware of the results of all areas of ministry when it comes to new families coming to the church and people (or families) coming to Christ and (most important) assimilating into the body life of the church – and nothing does it like Awana. In fact, no other ministry draws new people like Awana, as many families who are new to the community get online and look for the church in the community that has Awana. We did. And while we ended up not attending that church, we do take our son to a their Awana club since the church we do attend doesn’t have Awana. We want our son in Awana.
After fifty years, the results are in.
Churches that have Awana – see results.
Kids who are in Awana – benefit greatly.
But I also mentioned Sunday School. “What is that?” Some may ask. I know, Sunday School seems to be going the way of VHS and Floppy Discs and soon even DVDs. A thing of the past. Most new churches are not even bothering with it as their ministries are being built on a One Hour Sunday model built around a great worship/preaching experience and their new fancy buildings reflect this with one huge auditorium and a few child care rooms and no adult educational wing or classrooms. This is tragic. With no educational hour for adults, children’s ministry is forced into a “Kids Church Only” model, which severely hinders intentional discipleship. Even when there are two services, it is the same service twice in many churches.
Christian Education, as an intentional ministry of the church is threatened. You can’t do it in Kids Church, all ages combined, and you can’t do it in small groups for adults. You can do many good things in small groups, but not intentional in-depth Christian education, so a dumbing down of the Church is happening and it is showing throughout the culture. On the adult side the evidence is everywhere, and on the kidmin side, which only kids church (which can only do so much) the results are even tougher.
Churches with both an Awana, and Sunday School education hour and a Kids Church worship service will always produce the strongest kids spiritually. This is not to say the whole parent/home element is being left out or ignored – but the Church plays a critical role and so many churches today have forgotten what it means to have a comprehensive disciple-making strategy. Or they have no idea what those words even mean.
I know that I am the result of such a strategy when I was a child. And I am thankful for it. I see the impact on my life, my faith, and who I am today. It doesn’t mean I’ve lived a perfect life, but it means I’ve known the Path, and when I got off, I knew I was off, and knew where it was, and knew the way back. A strong spiritual foundation provides you with that perspective.
I am thankful for Awana and for Sunday School. They worked together so well as part of a right hand, left hand strategy in my spiritual development, and then Kids Church brought it all together with worship and topical teaching in a kid-friendly way. Just as the adult service brings everything together for “Big People.”