Over the past 11 years I have been involved with the AWANA program at our church. For those of you who know nothing about AWANA, it's name comes from the verse 2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth."
Now you are officially in the loop :)
Anyway, AWANA is much more than just another youth group. AWANA is a Bible club that focuses on the memorization of key Scriptures and principles. The average age group for a club is K-6th grade. Some clubs go down to toddlers, and some as high as high school. If your child attends faithfully K-6th grade, they will emerge with over 200 Bible verses committed to their memory.
AWANA is based on real life principles: you get out of it what you put into it. Children work to memorize "sections" which contain memory verses, Bible searches, and some just for fun activities. They are awarded according to the number of sections they do with AWANA bucks that they can choose to spend at the AWANA store as they wish. There is also a devotion time when leaders speak truth into the lives of the kids through God's Word. Last, but not least, there is a game time where kids are allowed to unwind and learn the principles of working together and sportsmanship.
For those of you who shy away from youth group settings: take heart. You can volunteer to serve as a leader and be there right along side of your kids to observe and guide them when needed. I have watched my girls and been there along side of them throughout their AWANA experience. It has been a wonderful thing for them because they are forced to work together with others and accept their strengths and failures with the guidance of a loving parent. Also, helping my girls memorize the verses at home has been valuable to my own spiritual growth!
Over the past two years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to share my heart with the 3-6th grade girls during devotion time. This is such a blessing for me because of the struggles that I faced at their age. My heart is for them to really love Jesus at a young age. There have also been opportunities to encourage good social graces. For instance, I have been able to encourage some of the more confident kids to reach out to the newer girls or ones that have fewer social graces. I believe that it helps them to see beyond themselves into what is more important: good relationships with others. It also helps them to look beyond outer appearances and see the beauty that is inside. I have been amazed at their willingness to give of their time and efforts to make others feel welcome.
Beginning at 3rd grade, AWANA boys and girls are separated so that the leaders can deal with gender-related issues. Women teach girls, Men teach the boys. I think that is another important point to be aware of because I am a firm believer in feminine girls and masculine boys.
If you are interested in getting your kids into this great program feel free to contact me. If you are not in Northwest Indiana, it is simple to do a web search and find an AWANA club. I will admit: a club is only as good as it's leaders, so get to know the ones who run it!