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.