On Wednesday, I turned in my uniform after serving AWANA (a bible program for children) for five years and children’s ministries for almost ten years. Why? Because God called me to serve women and help them grow in their faith. Yet, leaving AWANA wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be for me. What AWANA is and how it helped me both as a participant and a leader demonstrate the many benefits of the AWANA program.
Bible verse memorization
I memorized hundreds of verses when I was a child in the AWANA program, and many more when I was a leader. The children would be impressed by my ability to not look at their books but know if they were saying the verse or not. I used to tease them, telling them to “quiz” me about the verse in an effort to help them remember their verses. Yet, all of this has made an eternal impact on my life and hopefully the children’s lives. Bible verses are defenses to spiritual attacks and also help guide and comfort you in the midst of your spiritual life. Many times I have thought of a verse when I am in the middle of a crisis, a verse that I memorized when I was a child. Verses are harder to memorize as an adult, so I am grateful that I was able to memorize the verses as a child.
Knowing which book of the bible is where
Beginning with children in Kindergarten, AWANA emphasizes memorizing the books of the bible in order. As a result, children can often find the book they are looking for and can have basic facts about the bible. They know how many books are in the Old Testament and how many books are in the New Testament. They can flip to a book without hesitancy and often their enthusiasm to reach the book first results in a fun game. Yet, this innocent activity has further implications-the ability to know how the Bible is structured in their adulthood.
Recognizing principals of truth
AWANA emphasized not just knowing Bible verses and books, but also learning about the truths of Scripture. Children are required to know who made the universe, how many days he made it in, how we can know the Bible is true and much more. Basically, AWANA is teaching children how to defend their faith and what are the basic principals of their faith. These things go far beyond just receiving badges and prizes and sink into a child so that “when he is old, he shall not part from” the truth of the Gospel.
Remembering Biblical stories
One of the greatest privileges I had as a leader is breaking down a Biblical story in meaningful ways. I enjoyed teaching the lesson of creation using objects. For example, I brought grapes and made plates of the sun and stars, giving out each item as the days of creation passed. I also enjoyed seeing the children’s perspective on Biblical stories and the questions they have regarding the Bible. Children possess a naïve perspective that adults, hardened by the world’s lies, do not posses. The stories I tell I know will continue with them as they grow in their relationship with God. I know because I grew up remembering the stories I learned as a child from AWANA and Sunday School.
Many children who attend AWANA are friends with the kids that attend. This enables neighbors and others who have not heard the gospel to hear the truth of the Bible. However, it also shows children that they are not alone in their faith. Having a group to keep them accountable is another benefit of attending AWANA. I truly believe that a Christian’s faith is strengthened when he or she is in a community of believers and vice versa. If a Christian is alone in his or her faith, he or she may struggle to continue believing as the world continues to attack him or her with lies. Having children involved in a Christian community when they are children reinforces this idea of community so that they may remember that when they are older in faith.
AWANA stands for Approved Workman are not Ashamed. I think this principal is the one AWANA has sought to abide by throughout their existence. They desire to help children come to Christ and then stand for their faith in the turbulence of a dark world. Even though I must depart from this important ministry, I know that AWANA will continue equipping the Christian children with the tools they need for the future. To find more about AWANA, read here.