Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Let's establish something up front: there is no "s" at the end of Awana!

For those who don't know what "Awana" is, it is a club (actually several clubs) that emphasizes Bible memory in a format filled with neat games, cool uniforms,  plenty of badges, and fun.  The letters in Awana stand for "Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed" (taken from 2 Timothy 2:15).  And even though it is an acronym, it is not written A.W.A.N.A. or AWANA (unless everything else is capitalized too), and it is certainly not "Awanas," (unless you are speaking of something that belongs to Awana, such as "Awana's legacy", in which case it requires an apostrophe to show possession). It is simply "Awana," and I still get that clenched-teeth feeling when I hear the word "Awanas." What does the "s" stand for? "Approved workmen are not ashamed sometimes?" "Approved workmen are not ashamed significantly?"  "Approved workmen are not ashamed, silly!"

No "s" at the end of Awana.

Now that we have that out of the way, I salute Awana and all it has done to reach boys and girls with the gospel of Christ and train them to serve Him.  My Awana experience began with listening to verses in Sparkies and then developed into becoming a leader, a director, and eventually Commander for five years. It was an incredible rush, working with outstanding volunteers, and watching our club increase each year.

But the strength of Awana can be seen in a kid I'll call "Bryan."  Almost from the beginning, Bryan stood out from our group for one reason: he would not say the Pledge of Allegiance!  I'm sure nearly every club has those kids who either don't know what they are supposed to do during the flag ceremony or who need some reminding not to goof off during the ceremony.  But Bryan did not fit into either category.  He wasn't being rebellious or silly.  He stood there, quietly and respectfully, but with his mouth closed and his right hand down at this side.

After observing this for a couple of weeks, I took Bryan aside and asked him why he didn't do the pledge.  He said, "My mom said I couldn't."  A few questions later, I found out that Bryan's mom was a member of a certain religious organization that did  not believe in saluting the flag.  I conferred with our leaders and we decided (right or wrong) that we would allow Bryan to continue to stand there, lest we alienate him and his mother.

A few weeks later, Bryan passed his entrance book.  When I congratulated him, he said, "My mom told me you didn't believe what I did.  But I showed her my book and said, 'Look mom, they use the Bible too.'  She helped me learn my verses!"  I inwardly jumped.  A couple of weeks later, Bryan told me that he liked coming to Awana more than he liked going to his own church.  Although overjoyed that Awana had struck a chord in Bryan, I started to feel a little nervous that this could lead to a terrible wedge between him and his mother.  But that faded when he added, "My mom said she might start coming to church here."

I heard that Bryan and his family moved, so I never got to meet Mom at church.  But I can just visualize this boy, entrance booklet in front of him, feeding words of truth to his mom.  That is one of my favorite memories of Awana and why, even though I'm no longer actively involved in the program, I remain a fan.

Just don't add that "s" at the end.

Awana display booth from the 2011 Children's Pastors' Conference in San Diego

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