Monday, September 24, 2007

Why We Choose AWANA

About 2 weeks ago, Elijah started the AWANA program (specifically, Cubbies) at a church nearby. Our church does not offer AWANA, which never really affected me until I had a child old enough to participate. I have read varied opinions on AWANA clubs and others like it and their use of awards and such, and I can honestly admit that I see both sides of the debate. So here is our reasoning in allowing Elijah to attend (in no particular order):

First of all, I kinda like that it is at a different church. The church that holds the club does things a little different than we do, and I am sure that we disagree on some finer points of theology and practice. But I enjoy introducing our children to other believers who are unlike us. I want them to realize that Christians are similar in faith, but we may differ in how we apply our beliefs to our life. I desperately want them to understand that "our way" of doing things does not equal absolute truth and to be patient in trying to discern why other true believers may make decisions contrary to our own. And I like introducing my kids to other teachers and friends besides the ones they see every week at our church!

I like that AWANA Clubs stress the importance of memorizing Scripture. I am fully aware that at this point, Elijah is memorizing verses as an unbeliever. I know that if he continues in his unbelief, he is likely to become a pharisee. That fact alone terrifies me. I think I would rather have a child who openly rejects the grace of Christ than a child who rebels only in his heart and "looks" good on the outside. That is a dangerous place to live. But I also understand that it is Dan and I's responsibility to introduce our children to Christ, and I am obliged to all teachers who aid us in that endeavor.

We discussed this last night at our small group and I was explaining my belief that parents must constantly acknowledge that memorization does not equate to true, saving faith. I made the point that Elijah could win the Timothy Award, yet still reject Christ, and I hope we are always faithful to encourage our kids toward repentance, regardless of their awards in AWANA. One of the guys in our group said, "I won the Timothy Award." to which I replied, "Were you a believer at the time?" And he promptly answered, "Nope." My point exactly.

When, and if, our children come to Christ, which we pray fervently that they do, we hope those verses they memorized will be an aid to greater understanding of God's Word and an encouragement in their faith. After all, I remember verses I memorized before I fully embraced Christ, and they aid my walk today.

As to the charge about frivolity and "entertaining at church," I do concede that a lot of that takes place these days in fundamentalism and evangelicalism. This is a valid concern. I worry our kids will grow up expecting to be constantly entertained with silly song-and-dance shows and will develop the idea that church is not so much about God, but about me and how it can relate to my needs. I understand this argument.

My defense is rather simple. The tide of entertainment in church neither rises nor falls on the shoulders of AWANA. Once again, no program can replace solid teaching at home and, I believe, teaching at home will not be derailed by a once-a-week club that incorporates some fun activities. Balance is the key - and that saying is overused for a reason!

So there you have it, my friends. Those are just a few of the thoughts that jumped around in my head when we decided to utilize the AWANA club at the church nearby. I am convinced in my own mind, but completely open that others may be convinced differently. I think it is vital to our spiritual well-being to think these things through and come to a conclusion, and to fight the urge to just swim in the same direction that other Christian fish are swimming.


Gretchen said...

Nett -- thanks for throwing this out on the table. I was just thinking about AWANA yesterday because we went over to some friends' house (they have 6 kids). They were telling us that when they first came to L-ville, they only considered churches that offered Awana, which our church does not. But now they joined Clifton (our church) despite the no-Awana. I really pondered what makes Awana so great -- my experience in the several churches I took part of it in was not the best. I am glad you put your thoughts out there, and you have some good reasons. I appreciate how you have thought through it.

I am sure Elijah just loves it!

mitchells2000 said...

I have always been involved in AWANA all growing up. The churches that we have been in recently have gone toward Master's Clubs... basically the same concept, I think.
Anyway, the comment I wanted to make was this... I wouldn't be so concerned with my child memorizing Scripture and becoming a Pharisee, even though they may not be saved when memorizing the Bible. God promises that His Word will not return void. Also, when you are helping your child memorize the Scripture, it is a GREAT time already built in to TEACH your child what those verses mean! So - Enjoy having your child in AWANA! :-)

Anonymous said...

Our church has an Awana program that started this past Wednesday with a carnival. We had been in one church that did King's Kids instead of Awana. I like the emphasis on Scripture memory in Awana. We work on the verses at home as part of our homeschooling. At the younger ages, many of the verses focus on salvation, which may lead a child to saving faith in the Lord Jesus.

After reading "Shepherding a Child's Heart," I realized the importance of repentance and heart knowledge rather than establishing rules that the child can keep, which can lead to Phariseeism.

God's Word instructs parents to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, whether they are believers or not. By teaching them the Word of God, the Lord can work in their hearts and draw them to Himself.

Jana said...

Hey Donette,
Good to hear from you! Don't worry about last weekend. It was busy for all of us. Talk to you later!
P.S. Hope Elijah has fun in Cubbies!!

Name: Karen said...

Hey Donette. Good post. As usual...nice and thought provoking for your readers. My oldest went through cubbies all the way through 2 years of TNT. My youngest did two years of cubbies and then...we quit. The other two middle kids obviously fell in the middle.

This is our second year of NOT doing Awana (or any wed.night program) We had a variety of reasons for stopping. It seems that even though it's not stated or maybe encouraged--many, many (ok, most of them) end up memorizing for the sake of the reward. The trophy, prize, ticket or recognition. To us, as they got older, it wasn't what we desired. We wanted more Scripture in context. Awana is just verses here and there. We've taken to memorizing chapters instead. Not that random verses can't be used to bring someone to salvation. God does the work---not a program--so anything is possible. But when so many of the kids memorize all these verses and can't recall them two weeks later...I don't know that we've accomplished anything other than "patting ourselves on the back" that our kids are memorizing verses--one thing we can check off our spiritual list. This was always a big hang up for me.

I just have mixed feelings about the program. Quite honestly, with homeschooling, we memorize stuff, then the kids sunday school they memorize stuff, and then AWANA, it was too much and too all over the board. It caused more frustration than help. So while I think AWANA has a place and it can be a very good program, especially as an outreach to the unchurched--its just that....another program; another night that the family is divided. (this family division thing is big for me)

I've heard over and over people choosing a church b/c it has "AWANA". I think that is a good thermometer for the evangelical church---so often it's
"Oh, they have the programs I want, It must be ok"
instead of seeking to make sure the Living water of Life is proclaimed without shame and the WHOLE Gospel is preached--(you know the part about us being sinful too!)

Anyway--I love it when you ask or write about things like this. I love reading others thoughts and opinions. Thats what mine is...just another opinion.

Karen :)

Donette said...

Thanks for sharing your opinions. I'm glad I'm not "over-thinking" this topic!

Karen - I am sure that my conviction now might change once my kids are older. I totally understand the "dividing families" concern!

Gret - actually, my AWANA experience wasn't great, either. I had some mean teachers! We'll see if it continues to be worth it, but for now I am glad Elijah has a chance to participate.

Gretchen said...

Wow, Karen, thanks for weighing in there! I see what you are saying big time about the awards and stuff. Not that all kids are super affected by that, but most are. You are SO RIGHT about the programs thing! Sometimes programs are more of a crutch or a problem! I know when my husband started Word of Life with the teens (which, he for the most part, supported, and liked as a program) it made WAY more work for him than when he was just studying the Word and teaching the kids. You know?

Nett -- it seems like you made a good choice for Elijah at this stage of life, and the Lord will totally lead you as time goes on and you have to choose each year as it comes. Heather has a good point about God's Word not returning void, and you are sowing seeds in Elijah's heart right now. As faithful parents, you are also watering them by diligently teaching him about his own sinfulness and challenging him heart to heart. You are such a good mom. I wish we were next door neighbors! :)

Anonymous said...

I kind of like what our church has done. We have "Clubs". There are 12 character qualities that we seek to have the children learn by the time they are through Clubs and into Jr. High. Each year they learn 4-5 qualities. and take a month or more for each quality. They 1st learn about it, with a verse that they talk about all 4 of those weeks. One week they will have a game - emphasizing, "how will we put this into practice". One week they will have a craft. And on some weeks, I believe they do a serving project with that in mind. I really think it is neat.

Because Clubs is a cirriculum, made by teachers in our church it is very fluid and flexible from one week/year to the next. If your class needs more can park on it for a while :)

I do have to agree with Michelle also, however, that I am thankful for the memorization I did as a young child, because it has stuck with me now.