Awana is historically known for being a world-class midweek children’s and youth ministry. In many settings, at least for insiders, “Awana” and “club” are used interchangeably. Millions of children around the globe vividly remember participating in the games, reciting Bible verses, and wearing some sort of uniform as part of their Awana Clubs experience. Many of these kids and youth are today’s church leaders and parents. These adults may have fond memories of Awana, but not all of them describe it as more than a kids club. Hopefully this post will help shift their perspective (and yours) about what really happens in children’s lives at Awana beyond a once-a-week “kid’s club” meeting!
All for One & One for All
Kids love being part of something fun together—no wonder they’re drawn to join teams, groups, and clubs like Awana. Uniting children and youth around shared activities or a common cause can lead to healthy esteem, deep friendships, and lasting impact. When this happens in an inviting ministry environment, there’s no telling how God might use it to change young lives for good.
For over 65 years, Awana has existed as a creative and organized way to bring kids and youth together around the Gospel, God’s Word, and His people. Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” An organized “club” experience isn’t the only way to live out this passage, but it’s one way. Awana promotes lifelong discipleship by empowering children and leaders to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ side-by-side from week to week.
One important distinction about the ministry of Awana is it’s simultaneous nature of outreach and discipleship. The unique “club” experience provides a way for kids of all ages to engage wherever he or she is at in relationship with God. Christian discipleship is encouraged but never forced. Every child is welcome to encounter the grace and truth of Jesus Christ while playing games, learning from the Bible, and talking with friends and caring leaders.
Yes, Awana is a “club” – but it’s focus and impact doesn’t end there. If you don’t believe it’s more than a kids club (or you need some insights to convince someone else), here are six ways to describe what really happens in children’s lives at Awana.
6 Ways to Describe What Really Happens at Awana
1. A Time to Play
Far beyond its famed Game Square, Awana incorporates intentional, engaging activities for kids and youth. Sometimes these are highly organized competitions and events, while at other times it’s more relaxed fun. In both cases, participants experience the joy of jumping in with two feet, challenging themselves, growing in teamwork, and cheering others on. For children, play is work—it’s how they learn, grow, interact, create, discover, and so much more. Next time you’re at club, step back and see how having a time to play opens up each child’s mind, heart, and life to God, friends, and leaders.
2. A Place to Belong
Awana recognizes that kids need physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe environments, especially in the context of a Christ-centered family of faith. Matching vests and t-shirts may help kids and youth feel included, but shared experiences, stories, and memories are way more important for relational bonding. And, God’s unconditional love can break through all kinds of barriers when kids and youth feel welcome, valued, and accepted as they are. You can strengthen a sense of belonging in your club by figuring out visible and invisible ways to celebrate each child’s uniqueness and still bring them together.
3. A Team to Support
Competition in Christian circles often gets a bad rap, and sometimes Awana gets caught up in this firefight. It’s true, elevating winners and looking down on losers is a bad thing. Still, the New Testament never hesitates to liken discipleship to a race (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Heb. 12:1-2, 2 Tim. 4:7). In a healthy Awana ministry, the club regularly divides into teams to encourage community and celebrate progress. It’s a fantastic way to invite kids and youth to build one another up, not just in game skill and Scripture memory, but also toward a life of love and good deeds (cf. Heb 10:24). Challenge the children in your ministry to keep cheering one another on every time you meet!
4. A Space to Grow
Awana is purposefully designed to move kids and youth (and leaders) forward from salvation toward spiritual maturity in Christ. It presents the Bible from cover-to-cover, introduces a doctrinal foundation, highlights individuals in Scripture who walked with God, emphasizes the importance of the church and disciple making, and equips participants in spiritual practices like Scripture memory and serving so they will know, love, and serve Jesus Christ for life. This Holy Spirit guided adventure isn’t instantaneous or intended to be traveled alone. Don’t be mistaken! Awana is more than a club, it’s a committed community of peers and adults who want to grow in relationship with God and each other at whatever pace and depth is best.
5. A Mission to Serve
Jesus’ Great Commission in Matt. 28:18-20 is central to what the ministry of Awana is all about—making disciples who make disciples! Children who experience the worldwide mission of the God’s good news in action as part of a thriving ministry will be ready to carry this baton to the ends of the earth. If it’s been awhile since you reminded the kids and youth in your Awana club what it means to be witnesses at home, school, in their neighborhood, and the world, it’s time to fan those flames. Awana GO! is an excellent FREE library of resources that can fuel your ministry as it seeks to serve the Great Commission.
6. A Journey to Remember
Did you know there’s an Awana Alumni Network? There are people all over the world who credit their walk with Christ today to the faith foundation that was laid as a child in Awana. Sure, they reflect back on it as a club – for better or worse – but that pales in comparison to their lifetime of vibrant discipleship. You never know how God will use the kids and youth your Awana ministry reaches. Regardless of what their future holds, they will definitely remember more than a kid’s club—they’ll look back on the beginning of a faith journey that pointed them directly to Jesus forever.