Awana, I wanna apologize

O, Awana.

How I’ve hated ye all of these years. I’ve hated your uniforms. I’ve hated the cult-like dedication adults seem to latch onto you, especially at budget time.  I’ve hated how you eat up more volunteers than any other ministry. I’ve hated that parents seem to think their newly adolescent children would rather carry books and earn badges instead of drinking soda, singing songs, and listening to my expertly crafted Bible talks. And I’ve hated your reward-based curriculum. Did I mention I hated your uniforms?

I hated you until you worked for my family.

Awana, I wanna apologize. I was wrong about you. You’ve brought about three good things in my family that I want to tell you about.
  1. Free date night. Let’s be honest. The fact that you have a ton of adults willing to watch my kids for two hours (for free!) on a Wednesday night is amazing. There’s a lot of people trying to tell me that I’m a bad parent because I want to drop my kids off. They have mantras like, “No drop-offs. Stay with your kids.” Do those people actually HAVE KIDS? And do those people know how hard it is to find a good babysitter at a price a brother can afford? I’m just sayin… I get two hours of unrestricted time with Kristen a week. Bam!
  2. Bible smackdown. OK, so this isn’t technically part of your program. But it has become a fun Wednesday night tradition in the McLane household. My kids love to wrestle. And I love to defeat them. Now when we wrestle before Awana starts we use their weekly Awana verse  as their way to get out of a pin. I’ll put Paul into a full nelson and to get out of it he goes, “Romans 3:23! For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God!” And I say, “That’s right.” Which is McLane for amen.
  3. Learning to love Jesus one piece of candy at a time. As a lover of the Bible, a lover of theology, and a lover of human behavior… I have to admit that bribing children to memorize Scripture in exchange for candy and badges makes me cringe. After all, grace is free right? A relationship with Jesus costs more than a piece of candy, right? As an adult, I’ve wrestled with my children developing a conditional relationship with God where we exchange rewards for knowledge. But I have to tell you… it works! My kids hate church. But they love candy. If running around playing games, memorizing Bible verses, and wearing a silly costume means they are going to earn three pieces of candy and positively associate a life with Jesus with something yummy, I guess I’m for it. I wanted to hate you but you are so developmentally appropriate for my kids in this stage in life that I can’t.

In closing. I just want to say that I’m thankful for Awana on Wednesday nights. And I’m doubly thankful that it’s not at my church so I’m not getting asked to help.

Apologetically yours,

Adam

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

17 comments

  1. Adam,
    I couldn’t agree more. The first church I served my wife (who also served as Children’s Pastor) decided to bring Awana (I thought it was the cult) into their programming. I had been to the Awana Olympics and laughed at all the kids in their uniforms…and even more funny the adults in their uniforms.

    I became an apologist also. Once I saw how many children were coming to a true understanding of Christ and how many students accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior I began to change my views on it.

    I have even come to the point, now that God has taken us away from full time ministry for the time being, where I am looking for churches who offer Awana for my children!

    I’m still not going to wear one of those stupid adult uniforms though!

  2. Wow, I can’t believe that came out of your mouth. Happy to hear the entire family is enjoying AWANA.
    Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed!

  3. Dude, I’m with you. When I first started the Awana crowd used to drive me nuts. A little too fanatical I thought at the time. Now with four young sons, I would LOVE for our church to have Awana (or any kind of evening program) for our kids! We’re actually considering taking them to the church down the street that has it (is it weird to be a pastor at one church but take your kids to another???)!

  4. Don’t worry Adam when the program blows up and the church that is hosting AWANA runs out of high school kids to rob from the student ministry (John, [Leader of the AWANA-like program at the church where I am Youth Pastor] when you read this know I’m joking. I love having our students help) they’ll start asking parents of other local churches.

    1. I’m not seeing that at this church. And, besides, high school students might learn more by helping teach at Awana. A big part of owning your faith is putting it into practice, right?

  5. Actually, part of my headache at my first church was the expectation that high schoolers would help with Awana. The senior pastor forced me to move youth group to Thursday nights so that the teens could help with Awana. There were a handful of teens excited at the prospect, but because they couldn’t commit to be there EVERY single Wednesday night, without fail, regardless of midterms or seasonal commitments, none of them were allowed to help. Somehow they were viewed as not loving Jesus for only being able to be there some of the Wednesdays (never mind that they were also coming out on Thursdays, unlike the Wednesday night crowd).

    It’s a delicate balance … between seeing it as an opportunity for a teen to grow as a leader and develop in their faith, and just viewing them as a tool to be used for something else. I think that was the problem at my earlier church; the balance was out of whack in how they viewed teens.

  6. You know what else is great about Awana? I didn’t even have to go to bible college to know enough scripture to be able to win arguments with people who went to bible college. Thanks, Awana!
    -A Citation Award winner

  7. Free date night courtesy of Awana – is there any correlation to that and your pending “arrival”? Had to go there, sorry…

    I’ve never quite understood the pull of Awana, either – but our church doesn’t have Awana, but YG Wednesday nights, and the parents of just two of the 12-20 teens are regular attenders…and those that don’t attend always seem to have that peculiar “2 hours without the kids” grin of anticipation as they drive away…

  8. Hey Adam! You probably had no idea that my first ministry experience was 5 years as an AWANA leader / Game Director / Director, before I moved into High School ministry a few years back. Anyway, I’ve still got all my old AWANA uniforms if you’re interested! Pretty sure they’d fit, given we’re in the same weight class. I guess if you didn’t want to volunteer as a leader, you could always wear ’em on date night!

  9. Two things:

    1) I kicked a$$ in Awana Olympics. Seriously – there was some relay game with bean bags in the middle and I. Was. Amazing.

    2) I bought a gold cross necklace with a rose in the middle of it with AWANA BUCKS, gave it to my 4th grade “girlfriend” and all her friends thought I spent like $100 on it.

    And I said they were right. And then she was leaning over a radiator during class, and it snapped and fell down the radiator. And she started bawling because she just lost the $100 gold cross necklace her “boyfriend” (me) gave her.

    And I didn’t say anything…I said, “Wow – that sucks. It was a really, really nice necklace.”

    Thank you Awana bucks.

  10. Well even though you wrote this almost two years ago, Iwana thank you for your humorous take on Awana. My daughter just became a member..and it’s not at my church (whew!). I was looking online for pros and cons and I definitely see my future Wednesday nights as lookin’ good. 🙂

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