Monday, November 8, 2010

I Did The Unthinkable

If you had asked me ten years ago if I would ever encourage my kids to join Awanas, I would have laughed, "No way."

This might shock some people. Others not. And I still have mixed feelings, but overall I feel at peace about my decision to sign my son up for the Christian version of Boy Scouts.

The thing is, I'm pretty much ignorant when it comes to all things Awanas. I didn't know about the vests and patches, Cubbies, Sparkies, car racing, points, red team etc. I didn't know that I would be spending so much money either. 9 dollars for the book, 10 dollars for the vest, and 15 to cover award costs. This bothers me. It bothers me that I'm giving my child rewards for bringing their Bible, going to church, inviting a guest, and memorizing scripture.

But it bothers me more that without Awanas we weren't really doing any of the above mentioned things. It also bothers me that we have church friends and school friends, but there isn't any faith crossover. We drive a good 30 minutes to get to church, and while we've made great connections there, my son spends most of his time at school where none of his church friends go.

I don't want my son's faith to be segregated. I want him to know that there are other boys and girls in his class that believe that Jesus is real, and that the Truths that Jesus lives/lived matter...mean something.

A little boy in his kindergarten goes to Awanas. They are becoming good friends; I wanted to foster this relationship. So, last week we went.

I was a bit uncomfortable during the scripture memory time, which seemed forced and dry. Here were these little Kinders being forced to sit perfectly still and repeat lines from scripture that they didn't have the foggiest idea what they meant. How could I tell? One little boy had obviously not been working on his memory verse and was guessing on what line to say next. He was inserting all the coined phrases he'd obviously learned in previous weeks, "Christ the son of God? Christ the Lord? Because of Christ? Because Christ saves us?"

The instructor was sweet and very encouraging, but the teacher in me wanted to implement some sign language, motions, and explanation for the phrases this young guy was desperately trying to regurgitate.

Thankfully, this session didn't last long and off the little kids were to story time. This part made me smile. Just a story. That's all. A story from the Bible. Good visuals. Good teacher. Some songs, ones that I remembered singing as a child. I loved it. I loved that the Bible story drove the lesson versus some theme like, "God made families" or "God made things we can smell." This was what I had been looking for.

Then it was off to recreation time. This is when my son gave me a very mean look, "I want you to go home." He'd noticed that no other parents were lurking in the background, so I had to hide myself in a hallway and act like I didn't want to watch my son compete in game and sport.

At the end of the night, there was a winner announced. Yep, all night the kids had been competing in teams and were getting points for behavior, verses, songs, and games. The green team won, not my son's team, but he still felt like a winner because he got some candy for visiting.

We got into the van. "Well, did you like it?"

"Yes, I want to go there again. I want to learn my verse. What is my verse? I know the first part is John 3:16."

He loved it. He's been working on his verse everyday. Not because I'm making him, but because he keeps asking if he can work on it with me. It is the first time he's tried to memorize a scripture. He's very motivated. One evening he was in tears because I wasn't letting him go to Awanas, and his daddy had promised him he could go again.

"Honey, Awanas is once a week. You have to wait. I'm going to let you go, don't worry."

And so we wrote it down on his calendar all the way through the end of the year.

All the things that made my adult cynicism cringe, really connected with my son. And the best thing that connected with him was all the faces he saw there that he also sees every day at school. I kept hearing, "Hey, there's Gunner....there's Alayna....there's Isabelle....there's Austin....." That part made me feel good. There was a connection made, a sense of community. He doesn't feel like he's the only one who knows this man named Jesus. And so I will overlook any cultural bag age this might create in my son because the alternative, to me, is a greater risk to take.


FeliciaE said...

I have always wonderedd about Awana and what it was. Sadly we aren't as active as we should be in the church,something we are trying to change. But it has been so long for me personaly being involved in the childrens programs that I had no clue.

It sounds a lot like what we called Girls in Action growing up. GA. They had a boys version called the Rangers for God or something similar.

I am assuming that they also get patches and stuff for inviting people, taking their Bible and such. While I can get not wanting to reward them for something they should do automatically it is a small incintive to be more concisous about it.

I also don't see why you shouldn't mention an easier way for the children to memorize their scriptures. I love the idea of incorporating hand signs to help them learn.

Glad he had fun and met kids he goes to school and church with.

Jen Rouse said...

That sounds so great. I wish I had something like that for my kiddos, because I too have the same situation you have: school friends and church friends. I am sure there are AWANAS groups in Albany, but how do I know any of my kids' schoolmates would be in them? I know there is a "Good News Club" that meets sometimes for kids in this area. Those things have always seemed unbelievably cheesy to me, like they're forcing religion on kids...but maybe it's not as bad as I think it might be.

Rachel P. said...

I had the same feelings about AWANAs, but I have never regretted taking Geoffrey. He loves it, remembers the scriptures and even started asking questions about them. It's been interesting seeing how the structure is something he is thriving under. It is something that has actually changed my mind about many prejudices I've held about things my parents had me involved in as a child.

Rebekah said...

Great reflection Rachel.

Jen, you should look in to Good News Club. I did that as a child and the Bible Story approach they use is very good. I can still see those visuals and is where my love of all things King David, Moses, Elijah....all those gory Old Testament stories came from...actually it is where I got the concept that God looks at the heart vs. the actions.

I've heard great things about the CEF coordinator for your area.

Carrie said...

I have bucked against the idea of rote memorization for years, but have come to change my tune in the last couple. While my heart is that my children will embrace and love the Scripture they are memorizing, I am also seeing how much just having the data base of Scripture to fall back on means. Kids memorize easily at this age...and they will memorize regardless if you encourage it or's just a matter of WHAT they will be memorizing. We have chosen Scripture because it opens doors for conversations....can the 'get' the whole picture, perhaps not. But wow, have we had some pretty deep conversations thanks to AWANA verses and catechism memory.

I don't love the reward system, but I figure to not allow AWANA because of that may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Glad your son is enjoying it. We have two in the program this year! =)

Anonymous said...

Ruthie loves Good News Club. Her's is during school. They take it one hour a week out of the public school (take the bus to a church off campus). It's such a neat ministry. It's actually a law that public school students be allowed 1 hr of religious instruction (with parents permission). I think about 20 kids out of the whole school go. Any group could come in and do this Mormans, Islam, etc. Praise the Lord for CEF and the Christian Good News Club teachers who take the opportunity to do this.

Dawnfouts said...

I always enjoy reading your perspective on things, I hadn't thought of Awana's in that regard daughters are attending Awana's in Jefferson for the first time this year. I was involved with a similar thing when I was a kid & loved it. Sounds like your Awana program is cheaper than ours. We pay $40 per child at the beginning of the year, although they do have some scholarships available.

Michelle said...

I personally had bad memories of an Awana type club from my childhood, and I was set to be against it. I listed my reasons, including if the kids wanted to go to a youth group/Wed night event, they should go to our home church.

But, well, honestly I was worn down by begging. And my surrogate Mom asked me to let the kids go with her. I finally said okay, and I was stunned at how my kids flourished.

I'm glad I let go of my own issues. They love going to church on Wednesday nights, even now that they are long past Awana, they look forward to youth group with all the friends they made there.

Rebekah said...

Michelle, Love your comment. I think you express some of my fears with Awanas even though I never went to it myself.