Published May 26, 2005
I would like to respectfully disagree with the writer of the letter in the May 12 issue of the Index who expressed his displeasure with churches that choose Awana Clubs. If he thinks Awana Clubs are not missions-based, then he hasn't researched the Awana Clubs.
The Awana Clubs have programs designed for 3-year-olds through 12th graders. The Royal Ambassadors (RAs) and Girls In Action (GAs) have programs designed for 1st through 6th graders. (Editor's Note: See clarification at end of letter.) While some churches are choosing Awana Clubs over RAs and GAs, other churches (usually larger churches) are choosing Awana Clubs and RAs and GAs. Churches need to use the program that works the best for their church and their area at reaching out to the local children and bringing them (and their families) in to hear the gospel.
I was a member at a Southern Baptist church and involved in their GA program in the early 1990's. The church had a typical Sunday morning attendance of 1,200 and a GAs meeting typically had 20 girls (1st-6th grade) in attendance. The RA meeting typically had the same number. All of the children were from families that were current church members.
When my family moved in the mid-1990's, we transferred our membership to an independent Baptist church. We were all involved in their Word of Life program for the youth. The church had a typical Sunday morning attendance of 50. The Word Of Life program typically had 20 kids in attendance. Most of the children were from families that were current church members. A couple of the children lived next door to the church and their parent did not attend any church.
When my family moved in the late-1990's, we again transferred our membership to an independent Baptist church. We were all involved in their Awana Clubs program. The church had a typical Sunday morning attendance of 50. The Awana Clubs typically had 50 kids in attendance. Most of the children were from families that were not regularly attending church anywhere.
When my children desired a larger, more active high-school-level youth group, we transferred our membership to a Southern Baptist church in Cartersville, Grace Baptist. We are all involved in their Awana Clubs program. The Awana Clubs were started at Grace in 2001, with 5 children whose parents are church members. Today, four years later, the Club meetings are averaging 250. Grace has a typical Sunday morning attendance of 300, with an additional 50 in children's church.
My experience with Awana Clubs - both in my church and in observing the program in other churches - is that it traditionally has a much stronger outreach into the community than the traditional Southern Baptist children's programs. It is bringing children into the church where they hear the gospel and that is why it is now used in 10,400 U.S. churches and has grown to 3,386 international clubs in 111 countries.
I would encourage anyone who has questions about Awana Clubs International to visit their Web site and visit multiple churches that have Awana Clubs
Editor's Response: After consulting with SBC missions leaders the following response was crafted in an attempt to clarify the difference between SBC missions education programs and Awanas.
"Churches choose Awana for a variety of reasons. Most often a church cannot, because of its schedule, simply add Awana to its existing programs. This has led to replacing a current program with Awana, and many churches have chosen to drop their mission education program. Thus the perception is given that Awana provides the same, or very similar, function.
"In fact, it does not. Awana admittedly does well in drawing unchurched children into the church, but it does not inherently lead children to be involved in learning about Southern Baptist missions and participating in mission efforts in the same way as mission education organizations do.
"Many compare the emphasis of the RA and GA programs for grades 1 through 6 (and Challengers and Acteens for youth) to Awana as though they are comparing apples to apples. But it's really a comparison of apples to oranges.
"Awana's primary focus is on scripture memory. Mission education organizations have as their focus teaching about and leading students to be participants in Southern Baptist cooperative missions. Awana materials do not provide this emphasis.
"Children only learn about the Southern Baptist mission boards, Cooperative Program, or are challenged to be involved in mission projects when a church intentionally inserts such a missions component into the Awana program.
"Many people believe that missionaries in the Awana program and Southern Baptist missionaries 'do' the same things. In fact, missionaries in Awanas are sales representatives as well as advocates for the program.
"Having Awanas is not a question of good or bad. It is a question of what a church values most for the education of its children. Apples to apples? No, apples to oranges.
"Both are good. They are just different."
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