We’ve heard your questions, suggestions, and requests! This Spring we are getting ready to unveil a new website that not only shares the global scope of the Awana ministry, but also is packed full of improved features to provide you with the best online Awana experience.
As we set out to design our new website, our desire and intention has always been to create a space that helps you reach more kids, whether you’re a pastor, parent, Awana leader, donor partner or any other child champion whose desire it is to make lifelong disciples. Whether you’re searching for Awana at a church in the US, financially partnering with us to reach children and youth with the gospel, shopping for Awana curriculum solutions or looking for ways to become a more equipped leader, the new Awana website will contain everything you need to make a lasting gospel impact in the lives of children and youth in your community and around the world.
The new fully responsive website will provide an integrated and intelligent user experience making it easy to find what you’re looking for whether an inspirational story, an essential training module or the ability to sample the newest curriculum. We also have gone to great lengths to ensure we’re building a sustainable web solution that will provide new and updated information as well as integrate with your Awana account. It will be the faithful Awana you count on with the ease of advanced technology.
The New Awana Online Store – Powerful, Efficient and Intelligent
Gone are the days of confusing navigation and glitchy cart experiences. The new online Awana store offers a clean top navigation, helpful search results, and refined product categories. We’ve also ensured that your check out process, access to order history, and the ability to pay invoices is efficient and effortless.
We’re also excited to share other advanced features like wish lists, quick ordering and the ability to donate in the cart. Think of this like some of the best shopping features of sites like Amazon with the heart of and mission of Awana.
Leadership Development – Training and Equipping Leaders To Reach Kids
We know that training and retaining your leaders is key to successful ministry. You will easily keep your volunteers connected and resourced with our new Leadership Development site. Videos, downloads, and training modules will be organized in an easy-to-sort fashion to ensure that leaders access the content that is most beneficial to their role.
You’ll also be able to register for live training events like Awana Ministry Conferences where you have the opportunity to connect with other leaders, like you, who have a passion to reach kids with the gospel and instill in them a love for God and His Word. We’ve put a lot of thought into the leader development area of the new Awana website because it is leaders in local churches that make a lasting difference.
Impact Stories – Your Front Row Seat to the Global Work of God
We want you to see the impact that people just like you are having down the street and around the world, after all, Awana only works because of dedicated partners like you. Whether you’re a donor reaching kids on an international scale, a leader in a local church or anyone who’s interested in investing in today’s children and youth, we want you to experience stories of the transformational work of the gospel. That’s why we’re creating spaces throughout the site to watch videos, read testimonies and experience Jesus changing the hearts and lives of children and youth throughout the world.
What does it look like to take Awana outside the four walls of a church? How many more kids can hear about a hope found in Jesus Christ? Read two wonderful testimonies, international and local, where these churches used Awana as an outreach opportunity for their respective communities.
Ruiru Bible Baptist Church, Kenya
What started as an outreach to a nearby refugee camp, turned into a movement across Kenya of children reaching children for Christ. In March 2012, Ruiru Bible Baptist Church, just outside Nairobi, Kenya, decided to take food and clothing to the children in a nearby refugee camp and to play games with them. The next week nearly half of the children in the camp attended Awana at Ruiru Bible Baptist.
The leaders realized that there were many children out on the streets who knew nothing about Jesus. They needed to get their Awana program outside the walls of their church to the kids in their community. They started a program they called “Awana Mtaani,” meaning “Awana on the streets” in Swahili.
Here’s how it works, clubbers and leaders go out in large numbers to the streets, market places, villages and even refugee camps, chanting Awana slogans and songs. They carry banners, puppets and the Awana flag too. Out of curiosity, kids follow them to a specified location where they play Awana games and then share the gospel with them. Even adults, who are just passing by, stop to observe, and the leaders are able to share the gospel with them too.
Ruiru Bible Baptist organized several outreaches in different locations, and the outcome was incredible! Through Awana Mtaani, other churches were trained to start Awana. Then Awana Kenya adopted the program and trained more churches to use it as an outreach tool. Through Awana Mtaani, Awana Kenya has been able to reach more than 15,000 kids with the gospel of Christ. To God be the glory!
Salem Baptist Church, Georgia
Here in the United States, two leaders from Salem Baptist Church in Georgia were inspired by the stories coming from Kenya and decided to do more to reach out to their surrounding community. After a year of planning and lots of pastoral support, they launched “Awana in the Streets” at a trailer park down the road from their church. Their desire was to really get to know these families and build a caring, nurturing relationship with them. Their prayer was that this foundation, built on relationship, would lead to opportunities to share the love and hope of Jesus.
Each week, Salem Baptist families went door to door inviting children for pizza followed by a time of games and a Bible lesson. With parental permission, kids started coming! What the leaders discovered is that their own children were greatly impacted by this outreach too. After a few weeks of knocking on doors, the children, who could not wait for the night of Awana in the Streets, were the ones running up to the doors and doing the inviting. The children got excited about sharing their faith and inviting their new friends to church. The program worked so well, that Salem Baptist Church reached out to a new area the next summer.
God is preparing a great harvest around the world and sending out children into His harvest. How could God use the leaders and children in your club to reach more children for Christ? Jesus called them to Him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16, ESV)
Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time traveling across the country and asking many children’s and youth ministry leaders to choose one word that best describes their soul. The following book outlines the 11 most commonly used words that I discovered on this journey.
The topic of soul care is a conversation that every single children’s and youth ministry leader needs to contemplate. It has impact on why we do ministry and even how long we will do ministry. For most of my travels, I flew on an airplane. As we backed up from the gate, the safety briefing began explaining that when the oxygen masks fall from the bulkhead, we need to make sure we put on our own first and then assist others.
Over the next 11 chapters, let’s go on a journey together to put that oxygen mask on, ask some questions, and do some much-needed reflection. Why? Because our kids and students need us to spend time taking care of our souls, so that we can be even more effective at helping them learn how to take care of their own.
Ask any professional athlete, and they’ll tell you that championships are won because of discipline, sheer talent and also because of 99.9% of what happens in the off-season. Victory begins at training camp, summer workouts, sweat, and pushing yourself when the lights and cameras are off, and the crowd isn’t paying attention. This method of winning has a significant crossover to the world of ministry.
Many ministries often struggle with defining the win. How do you know that you’re being effective at reaching kids with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? What kind of metrics does your church use to determine if they are faithful and effective disciple-makers? Is it numerical? Is it cultural? We can go back and forth with all kinds of key performance indicators. However, I’d like to suggest that defining the win in your ministry always begins on a much smaller level. It’s in the heart of each person that’s on your team and the individual growth in their relationship with Jesus Christ. So, I’d like to suggest that you ask a crucial question before the last leader checks out: What are you going to do in the off-season to prepare for a massive movement of God this coming fall?
As believers, instead of sheer talent, you have the Holy Spirit working alongside and equipping you to know, love, and serve your kids and students. So, what does your off-season look like for you? Here are three things you can do now to help prepare for ministry and help define the win.
1. Do you have a workout plan? No professional athlete wanders into a gym and maybe thinks about touching the weights. You’ll never hear a star running back say, “Oh, I just didn’t have time for it Coach.” When it comes to reading your Bible or engaging in any of the spiritual disciplines, do you have a workout plan? Not, do you have someone else’s workout plan? But instead, do you have your specific and unique workout plan? Spend some time putting together a reading and study plan that is personal for you this summer. You know your physical and mental limits, and you can adjust your plan to stretch your mind and heart and increase the duration in small increments over the course of the next couple of months. You’ll be amazed when those verses you read turn into chapters read. And how does this help define the win in your ministry? Engagement! Engagement around God’s Word and spending time with Him. As you move toward ministry this fall, how will your ministry help engage kids with God’s word? Kid’s engaged in God’s Word always equal a win.
2. Do something challenging and unfamiliar. Defining the win has everything to do with our willingness to encounter our limitations. And most of our limitations often exist in our mental space. But seriously, do something that will assault your fears and stretch your mental abilities. Coaches always push their players to the edge because they need to know where it [the edge] is for each one of them. So, is there a fear that currently is your prison? Write out your fears and think of one that you can address over the next several weeks or months. At the least, you’ll have some fascinating stories to share with your kids and students as you inspire them to confront their fears and trust Christ more as a pathway to long-term spiritual growth.
3. Make healthy decisions. Every pre-season there is a story about a player who didn’t work out. Didn’t go to training camp. Decided to play a pickup game and then breaks a small bone in his or her foot and cannot walk. The choices and decisions you’re making now will impact what your kids and students receive from you this fall. Think about that for a moment. Many times, we think defining the win has everything to do with game time and when the lights go on or the rooms are filled with kids. Hardly. Defining the win begins with the decisions you’re making right now. Your kids and students will be impacted by those decisions and choices that you’re currently making several months from now. Don’t skip spiritual workouts. Don’t miss spiritual meals. Don’t ignore the advice of your coaches and spiritual trainers. It’s foolish to think you’ll show up this fall and jump right into ministry. Many do that, and they just don’t last. They get burnt out, used up, and might never come back. No athlete thinks like that, and no follower of Christ should think like that either. Prepare now. Make healthy spiritual decisions.
So, how do you define the win in your ministry? What does your off-season look like as you train to become a more effective child disciple-maker? We’d love to hear some of the things you’re considering or some of the stories of what God is doing in your life and ministry.
Three sons left home, went out on their own and prospered. Getting back together, they discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother.
The first said, “I built a big house for our mother.”
The second said,” I sent her a Mercedes with a driver.”
The third smiled and said, “I’ve got you, both beat. You know how Mom enjoys the Bible and you know she can’t see very well. I sent her a parrot that can recite the entire Bible. It took 20 monks in a monastery 12 years to teach him. I had to pledge to contribute $100,000.00 a year for 10 years, but it was worth it. Mom just has to name the chapter and verse and the parrot will recite it.”
Soon thereafter, Mom sent out her letters of thanks: “Milton,” she wrote the first son, “The house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house.”
“Marvin,” she wrote to another, “I am too old to travel. I stay home all the time, so I never use the Mercedes. And the driver is so rude!”
“Dearest Melvin,” she wrote to her third son, “You were the only son to have the good sense to know what your mother likes. That chicken was delicious.”
Have you noticed getting it right on Mother’s Day is one of the most challenging tricks in the whole human relationship bag?
Maybe that’s because Mother’s Day is the most mixed-bag holiday of them all. On social media Mother’s Day is the happiest, tear jerking-est, most sentimental celebration and day of mourning all wrapped up together. The happy pictures of mothers and children hugging and smiling together, the posted cell phone pictures of springy bouquets and shiny gifts of jewelry spelling MOM or displaying kids’ birthstones, run right alongside messages to mothers in heaven and stony silences that cover a world of relational pain. No other holiday yanks us around with the emotional power of Mother’s Day.
So here are some “Mom thoughts” that reflect what I believe about mothers and their children.
First: We gave our mothers more joy than we will ever know.
We were precious to her and whatever else she had to deal with in life, we made it all worth it. Trust me on this. I’m a mom. I know.
For nine months while she carried you under her ribs you were a source of awe and wonder to her. What would this child look like? What kind of a person would emerge? The very idea of you growing under her heart was awesome.
And when you grew . . . your smile was the best, your jokes the funniest, your triumphs the most important. To a mother a child is nearly everything in life.
Whatever has been lost in translation through the years that truth remains.
Second: We gave our mothers more pain than we will ever know.
When you have a mom, you never suffer alone. Your struggles are her struggles. She is linked to you for better or worse. The consequences of poor choices, the agony of defeats, the suffering of trials, the heart-wrenching problems you experience all flow from your life to hers. On some level, we all broke our mom’s hearts. When she could no longer shelter us, when we had to grow up, when the downside of life slammed into us, she felt it – big time. We bled and she cried. One of the best gifts some mothers could receive is a simple recognition of how we have impacted her emotionally along with a simple “I’m sorry, Mom.” or “Thank you for being there for me.”
Third: Death can’t break the mother/child attachment.
Strange thing . . . even though my mother has been gone for over 30 years, I understand her better now than when I was young and she was living. I appreciate more. I recognize her role in my formation more. I remember her with gratitude and joy and less mourning every year. Our mothers have a hold on us that lasts for our lifetimes.
So, with those mom truths in mind . . . what gifts could reflect this most intimate of human relationships?
The gift of presence
My seven-year old grandson, Rowan, announced to me that he always wants to live with his mother because he loves her so much! I hope when he grows up he remembers that a part of his mother is always lonely without him. Call. Write. Show up.
The Gift of allowing for her humanness
Mothers are far from perfect. They irritate and wound us. Is it possible though that our love could cover a multitude of sins, imperfections and disappointments? Unless she is toxic (and in which case I recognize you may need a pass to deal with her) the answer is yes. It is a fortunate mom whose adult children know how to forgive, accept and still love.
The Gift of rising up and calling her blessed
A growing number of scholars believe that the command to honor one’s parents was not directed toward young children, but adult children for the purpose of caring for their aging family members.
What is being commanded when we are told to honor? Honoring parents is not an attitude only. It is demonstrated through positive action: meeting their needs, listening to their advice, recognizing their worth, and doing so in all sorts of ways large and small.
I witnessed this so beautifully when I attended a breakfast to honor the parents of kids graduating from high school in Bangladesh. Each child had written a page to thank their parents for their care, love and support. Each kid read it publicly. It was powerful. A man next to me wept out loud and I thought he must really love his child and then I realized it wasn’t even his kid who was reading those meaningful words!
Why was this so impressive?
It was public.
It was a long-time coming. Sixteen or seventeen years!
It was expressed in the throes of teenage relationship stress with parents.
It’s Mother’s Day. I just thought your mom might like you to know what she’s really thinking.
In 1955, Art went on a trip to Venezuela with New Tribes Mission (now Ethnos360). While there, he took notice of all the children aimlessly roaming the village, and it sparked an idea. He decided to draw an Awana game circle into the dirt along a riverbank and, through an interpreter, invited children to join him for a game. The kids responded with unbridled enthusiasm.
“It was there on that riverbank that God gave Awana a mandate,” Art said. “The Lord called us to reach out to a world of boys and girls who desperately need to hear God’s offer of salvation. At that moment, He showed me that children all over the world have the same needs – they need Christ’s redemption and they need adults to love them– and that He could use Awana in a powerful way to meet the needs of their heart.”
That mandate was planted, but it took a few years for the ministry to grow within the US and for the foundations to be set for international ministry. But in God’s timing, the first international Awana club launched in Bolivia in 1972. Awana has carefully shepherded the gospel through changing times, holding tightly to what is eternal, making needed updates, and during nearly 70 years of ministry has produced a revolutionary impact. By equipping and training local leaders and partnering with churches around the globe, we are experiencing unheard of growth in this exciting season. Today, Awana is in 121 countries around the globe, reaching more than 4 million kids every week with the gospel and discipleship. In the beautiful country of Venezuela where this dream first started, there are currently 581 clubs and over 48,950 kids being reached – but that’s just the beginning.
When asked how this growth happened, Art said, “I simply tried to be faithful to what God would have me do each day. He’s the one who grew Awana into a ministry around the globe, not me.”
Will you join us in this journey of seeing the amazing God-story play out through the ministry of Awana?
Your Awana ministry may be winding down at the end of the school year and the last thing on your mind might be the next ministry year, but recruitment is a never-ending process. Finding amazing leaders to fill your Awana ministry next year can start now!
Here are some of the key tools you have in your Recruitment Toolbox:
“We really need volunteers to help at our Awana club. We are so short-staffed and it’s hard to reach kids with so few leaders. Can you help us?”
“Kids today are facing some really hard stuff. But our Awana club is providing kids with a faith foundation and you can be a part of that! God is doing some amazing things with our kids and I want to invite you to come and be a part of the excitement!”
Take a look at the two examples above. What words do you notice in each? Which one makes you happy? Which one makes you anxious?
When we take the focus off of the “need” and “us” and become “God” and “them” focused, people are more likely to respond. This takes the pressure and guilt off of them, allows them to hear about what God is doing, and invites them to be a part of something fun and exciting.
Using this kind of language in conversation, in public asks, in printed materials, and in all of our recruitment efforts, can create a movement of people who want to be involved, not just people who are begrudgingly filling a need.
“Jack is a second grader and has moved four times in his short life. He’s been attending the Awana club here at our church since September. Every week, his leader greets him with a huge smile and uses his name! Jack gets to feel like he finally belongs somewhere every week when he comes to Awana.”
“Last week, Miss Cheryl, one of our Large Group Time teachers, told the kids the story of Zacchaeus. As a part of the story, she explained that even though we all do bad things, Jesus suffered the consequence for us. We had two kids put their faith in Christ for the first time ever that night! Now they are asking a ton of questions and are eager to read more of their Bibles!”
“Mr. Brandon is one of our T&T leaders. He is a VP at a local bank and is a leader in the community. But every Wednesday night, he shows up and plays crazy games with his group of boys and discusses the Bible with them. He says that it’s his favorite night of the week! And he’s actually memorized all the same verses that his boys are memorizing … he says that his faith is stronger because of what he learns each week at Awana.”
After hearing stories like those, who WOULDN’T want to be a part of that?
What are your stories? What is God doing in your ministry? Always have a couple of stories ready to share with people about what God is doing in your Awana ministry.
Start now! Think of one thing that God has done in a child, a leader, or in your club as a whole.
Now whom do you need to share that story with?
Recruitment can often feel very overwhelming. The best part is, you don’t have to do it alone! Enlist other leaders to help.
-Tap into their networks: Ask each leader to give you 2-3 names of people they think might make good leaders. Follow up with each one of the names you are given.
-Have an “Invite a Friend Night” for the leaders! Have each leader bring another adult to club to shadow them and see first hand what serving in Awana is all about! *
-Some people have a natural gift of “connecting.” These are the people who seem to know EVERYONE in the church and community. Tell them about the kind of people you are looking for and see if they know of anyone. Ask them to reach out to the people in their lives. Even if this is not your gift, partner with someone who naturally does this well!
*Make sure this kind of event follows your church’s Child Protection Policy.
That’s what I said during a radio interview with WRMB in South Florida recently. Even as I said it, I realized it might sound like a simple over statement to many people, including some Christ-followers. But who knows what each of us is capable of without the redeeming work of God in our lives? What have we been saved from becoming? Of all people, we know the power of God unto salvation, the reality of changed and freed lives, and the impact of radical love.
I check my own heart as I say the words. Yes! I believe it! Radical love could have saved the Parkland shooter from targeting his pain and suffering into the world until 17 innocent classmates lay dead at his feet.
I believe that. And I believe something else; the church already knows how to lead our violence-wracked, divided country into a place of healing. The national debate on gun control is a stuck needle and impotent. Looking to our government for hope or solutions that will protect our children and others as well is already too little too late.
But even as the news swells with accounts of radical Islam, and radicalized-by-hate students rampaging through their campuses, we cannot give up hope.
The hope for our culture is found in the Jesus way. The church has been traveling this pathway for thousands of years. We know how to love radically. We don’t always get it right, but when we do…everything can change.
“Well, what does radical love look like in our churches today?” the radio interviewer asked me.
It starts with kids. Really. When we love a community’s children, we will have more influence and more church growth than we can handle. We may also heal a child who is on his or her way to pumping the world with his pain from the trigger of an AR-15 assault rifle.
Radical love is the kind that opens a church’s door to every child within its reach. That means every child…the kid with behavior problems, children from dysfunctional and hard-to-work-with homes, the children of poverty, children who are already social outcasts, children with special needs, children of different nationalities and tongues. The others. The different. The quirky. The odd. The left out. The overlooked. The abused. The neglected. The hungry. The lonely. The bullied. The ones already sliding into despair. When Jesus said, “Let the children come,” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking about only church kids whose lives are supported by believing, loving homes. His words were meant to carry those “other” kids through our church doors and into our hearts.
Radical love looks a lot like Oakwood Baptist Church in New Braunfels, Texas. This church started Awana a year ago. I spoke to the Senior Pastor, Ray Still, and their Executive Pastor, Rusty Rice recently. They were eager to tell me what their first year had been like.
Rusty started their story, “We thought we might have 300 kids come, but instead 500 are showing up. Everyone on staff from our senior pastor and down through the ranks is working at Awana—registering kids, leading small groups, organizing game time, listening to verses, and leading the large group time.”
They were smiling. This wasn’t bad news. They were excited to share the news of their abundance of children with me.
“Yes, and we decided to feed them pizza every night.”
Magic formula right there! I thought to myself.
Ray Still, the senior pastor, talked about a special kid in his small group of nine grade school boys.
“I have this one kid in my group who is a nightmare. He is a full-time job for me almost every week. Recently, I met his mother. I said ‘I would like to talk to you about your son.’
I saw her face drop as she prepared herself for the familiar-to her bad news.”
I knew what was coming. Or at least I thought I did.
He continued “We love having your boy at our church. He is always welcome here and we are doing just great.”
Ray was smiling now. “I saw her face light up. She had steeled herself for the usual bad report. You could see how surprised she was that finally there was a word of encouragement coming from somewhere in the world about her child!”
That child is an accident waiting to happen to all of us without the church in New Braunfels, Texas. A couple of hours a week in the presence of caring adults and a loving community can turn a child’s life completely around.
Here’s to the radical love of a pastor who gets out of the pulpit once a week to love and disciple kids from his community!
Here’s to the radical love of a church that feeds 500 hungry kids every week as a regular part of their church budget!
Someone sent me a picture of just such a pastor recently. It’s Jeremy Elam of Peavine Baptist Church of Rock Spring, Georgia. He’s lying on the floor at his church playing video games with a kid and a stuffed animal. I’m pretty sure that’s not in his job description. I just love that picture. Can’t even tell you why except…
Jeremy Elam of Peavine Baptist Church
That’s what radical love looks like. If we do the math… with over 9,000 Awana churches in the States, 52,000 churches internationally… what if we all got it right? What if we started with the kids and loved them in the Jesus Way?
Radical love could have saved 17 kids in Parkland, Florida. It could have saved Nikolas Cruz as well.
Do you believe it? If you do, will you do one more thing?
If you know a pastor or church that is practicing radical love in their community, would you write us and tell us that story? We would so love to hear it, applaud it and pass it on so that we can all be inspired to love the “other” more radically.
Awana is a world-wide nonprofit ministry focused on providing Bible-based evangelism and discipleship solutions for ages 2-18. As the global leader in child and youth discipleship, Awana gives children the opportunity to know, love and serve Jesus, no matter their background. Through equipped and empower leaders, God is using Awana to reach over 4 million kids every week in 120 countries through partnership with 50,000 churches around the world. If you are an Awana leader, parent or pastor with Awana in your church, you are part of this amazing global God-story.
Do you ever long for slow? Life can come so fast and each of us can become easily swept up in the fury of activity as we live out our day-to-day routines. Our hearts long for a different rhythm. A rhythm not of this world, but of a different Kingdom.
Over the course of the next several weeks, you and your church will be making preparations for passion week and the celebration of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Even in the hustle and bustle of activity in the Gospels, we often find our Lord reframing the expectations of people around Himself. May we also take this opportunity to downshift to a slower rhythm in our lives and spend the next couple of weeks preparing our hearts and reflecting on our Savior. Let us use this time to gather as families, remember and retell the accounts of what happened with our children.
To help with this, our Elementary Curriculum Developer, Laura Elliot has created three simple family devotionals to use during this time of year. Gather your family together and spend some time reflecting on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
He is Risen!
We would love to see you and your family engage with this beautiful devotional. Please tag us on social media and use #AwanaEaster, share photos of your family study time as well as photos of the completed crafts. We can’t wait for you to engage with this material.