Awana Clubs International is an evangelical ministry that provides Bible-based evangelism and graded discipleship resources for children and teens ages 2–18. The name Awana is an acronym for “Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed,” which comes from their key verse: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV). The goal of Awana is to “reach kids, equip leaders, and change the world” by making one disciple at a time.
The concept for Awana was developed by two pastors in Chicago in 1941. Lance Latham, the senior pastor of North Side Gospel Center in Chicago, collaborated with Art Rorheim, the church’s youth director. Their goal was to provide a weekly club for Christian kids as well as unchurched children. Other churches heard about the successful program at North Side and began to implement it as well. In 1950, Awana officially began as the Awana Youth Association. Today, Awana clubs are active in over 100 countries in over 100 different denominations, reaching over 4 million children weekly. The program isn’t just for churches though, as the Awana curriculum is also being used in refugee camps, slums, prisons, and other hard-to-reach places.
The age-based Awana curriculum aims to reach kids and families with the gospel. Awana pairs a small group discipleship handbook with large group teaching. Children and teens learn how to memorize God’s Word, study the Bible, and apply it to their lives. They also learn about worldwide missions and the need to help others. As children complete various stages in the Awana program, they earn awards. Churches are encouraged to use the curriculum and flexible program to develop a biblical foundation for the children of their communities.
A big part of the weekly meeting of an Awana club is game time. The Awana games are played by four teams on a circle, and the Awana curriculum includes rules for hundreds of games, races, and relays. In 1955, the first Awana Olympics was held as a competition among the clubs from four different churches. Today, the AwanaGames, as they’re called, are held around the world.
Another goal of the Awana program is to develop and train leaders for effective ministry. Leaders are trained in how to effectively disciple children to become lifelong followers of Jesus Christ.
In addition to resources for the weekly clubs, Awana offers camps, local church-based soccer and basketball programs (through High Power Sports, a ministry of Base Sports), parental support, family Bible studies, leadership training conferences, competitive Bible quizzing, regional athletic competitions, and financial scholarships to many Bible colleges and universities.
Awana is a time-tested and trusted Christian ministry, But, as with any Bible study program or ministry, we encourage all participants to compare the teachings of Awana to what the Bible says (see Acts 17:10–15). If you are considering sending your children to a church’s Awana program, it is also wise to evaluate that church’s statement of faith and compare it to God’s Word.