“I’ve heard of Awana. That’s the midweek Scripture memory program for kids, right?”
When church leaders say something like this to me, I usually say, “No.” [GASP] You see, the real answer is “Yes AND no.” Reducing Awana to the reciting of Bible verses for points and prizes on Wednesday nights is a common misnomer. Just like a cartoon caricature exaggerates a person’s outstanding physical traits (like huge ears, giant eyes, and tiny legs), the same happens when we try to describe what distinguishes one ministry from another.
The truth is, “Yes,” Scripture memory is a hallmark of Awana ministries that sets it apart from all the rest. And, “No,” Scripture memory isn’t the sole objective of this worldwide disciple-making movement.
“Yes,” Awana places a high value on God’s Word and Bible engagement, including the spiritual discipline of Scripture memory. And, “No,” rote memorization and recitation of Bible verses doesn’t reflect the disciple-making heart of Awana ministries.
I believe that church leaders, parents, and kid-influencers who take one look under the hood of Awana will discover deep devotion to God and His Word in every dimension of life. And, while Scripture memory is one of many ways Awana helps this happen, this time-tested discipleship practice impacts far beyond the accumulation of Bible verses and biblical head knowledge.
The ministry of Awana, and even the discipline of Scripture memory, is more than Scripture memory. But don’t just take my word for it; read on and explore for yourself.
Why is Awana So Set on Memorizing God’s Word?
Awana is a global children’s ministry. It’s rich history dates back 65+ years when Art Rorheim and a handful of ministry colleagues set out to reach neighborhood kids and youth in Chicago with the Gospel. Art’s team prioritized training current and future generations to trust and follow Christ, and to lead others to do the same.
The founders of Awana believed in living out Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, an everlasting command to make and multiply disciples. They personally experienced the power of Paul-Timothy style disciple making, an equip-to-equip model reflected in 2 Timothy 2:2. In step with the example of Jesus, Paul, and a legacy of godly disciple-makers, Art co-founded Awana in order to keep passing on the baton of faith in similar, but fresh, ways.
As a result, Awana raised its disciple-making banner based on 2 Timothy 2:15: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. Bible engagement that’s respectful and rigorous is, and always has been, dear to the heart of Awana ministries. Devotion to Scripture honors God, follows Jesus’ example, cultivates a relationship with Christ, rallies disciples together, and transforms lives for eternity.
Today, Awana continues to uphold engaging God’s Word as foundational for discipleship. It takes 2 Timothy 3:16-17 seriously: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. This legacy ministry still places a strong value on personally reading, studying, memorizing, reflecting upon, and reciting God’s Word. It is also deeply committed to biblical preaching, teaching, and training so kids, youth, leaders, and families will come to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ.
What Happens When God’s Word is Top of Mind & Tip of Tongue
When the Word of God is on the top of a person’s mind and the tip of their tongue, it changes how they think, feel, act, and relate more readily. Scripture memory is just one way Awana holds Bible engagement in high regard. The ministry of Awana places an importance on this spiritual discipline because ultimately, it’s more than Scripture memory—it’s about Scripture engagement in close relationship with God and others. Here are 11 ways engaging with God’s Word through Scripture memory impacts individuals and the body of Christ.
1. It heightens awareness of biblical truth.
- 2 Timothy 3:16—All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
2. It fully equips God’s people with what’s needed to serve Him.
- 2 Timothy 3:17—So that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
3. It provides in-the-moment resistance to sinful choices.
- Psalm 119:11—I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.
4. It provides direction for prayer that is attuned to Jesus’ character.
- John 15:7—If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
5. It stretches one’s ability to focus thoughts on Christ in community.
- Colossians 3:16—Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
6. It instills discernment capacity for knowing the Lord’s will.
- Romans 12:2—Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.
7. It highlights a route for a life that is God-honoring.
- Psalm 119:105—Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
8. It opens up a vibrant connection with the Holy Spirit.
- John 6:63—“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.”
9. It renews a person’s mind and heart from the inside out.
- Hebrews 4:12—For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
10. It strengthens a godly person’s roots in relationship with God.
- Psalm 1:1-2—Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.
11. It unites the church family around the message and ministry of Christ.
- Acts 2:42—They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
It’s hard to ignore all these life-transforming effects of engaging with God’s Word. And, knowing that Scripture memory can increase a person’s receptivity to God, His Word, and walking with Him in biblical community, it’s hard to discount the value of this time-tested spiritual practice.
The late Philosophy professor and author, Dallas Willard, sums the case up well in favor of memorizing God’s Word: “Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That’s where you need it! How does it get in your mouth? Memorization” (“Spiritual Formation in Christ for the Whole Life and Whole Person” in Vocatio, Vol. 12, no. 2, Spring, 2001, p. 7).
Memorizing God’s Word is here to stay at Awana, but don’t forget—it’s more than Scripture memory.
For Reflection & Application
Why Does Scripture Memory Matter to You?
Watch the 2-minute video below by Jeremy Pettitt, Vice President of Ministry Resources & Publishing at Awana. Then respond to the three questions below the video player.
WATCH >> Scripture Memorization: What’s the Point?
With the Bible readily available at our fingertips using powerful tools like Google and Bible apps on our phone, what’s the reason we need to be memorizing Scripture?
- What reason(s) did Jeremy give for why Scripture memory matters to him and lifelong discipleship?
- Write down at least two reasons why you believe memorizing God’s Word is important and explain your rationale.
- This week, share with a family member, friend, or another ministry leader why you value Scripture memory. Discuss with him or her how you plan to incorporate this spiritual discipline into your walk with God.