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.