Awanas

SWIFTELK
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Awanas

Post by SWIFTELK » Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:25 pm

So.... My wife and I are trying to determine if we are too uptight or not and would like to take into account some other opinions to balance out (or justify) our concerns with awanas. Our kids went once last week and I attended also. There were lots of things that gave me a red flag. Our kids would like to go back, and we like that they have fun and are around other kids of christian influence.(some kids questionable influence). However....

1. They get bribed for bringing other kids to Awanas. They get bribed for memorizing scripture etc... lots of bribery.

2. I sat in on a sermon where the guy coaxed them into saying the "sinners prayer" and included "It's between you and God. It doesn't matter what your parents or anyone else has to say about it". First of all, any kid that wants a candy bar will say the sinners prayer. Second, I don't like the idea being planted in my kids' mind that it "doesn't matter what your parents think".
It seems like the "once saved always saved" doctrine leads people to try tricky or dirty tactics to just get them to say the words and "lock em in"

3. They pledge allegiance to the flag. Mixing God with Country doesn't sit right with me. I personally don't pledge allegiance to the flag because I feel it fringes on idolatry not to mention our country is not "one nation under God". They also pledge allegiance to the awana flag which just strikes me as stupid.

So, are we being too uptight or should we turn a blind eye so the kids can go have fun?

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mattrose
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Re: Awanas

Post by mattrose » Thu Feb 28, 2013 6:58 pm

SWIFTELK wrote:1. They get bribed for bringing other kids to Awanas. They get bribed for memorizing scripture etc... lots of bribery.
Bribery usually has a corrupt connotation (you get bribed to do something you know you shouldn't). Clearly there is a difference between bribery and rewarding good behavior. Don't you think children should be encouraged to invite their friends to church and memorize Scripture? Is there anything wrong with getting rewarded doing such a thing?
2. I sat in on a sermon where the guy coaxed them into saying the "sinners prayer" and included "It's between you and God. It doesn't matter what your parents or anyone else has to say about it". First of all, any kid that wants a candy bar will say the sinners prayer. Second, I don't like the idea being planted in my kids' mind that it "doesn't matter what your parents think".
It seems like the "once saved always saved" doctrine leads people to try tricky or dirty tactics to just get them to say the words and "lock em in"
These are, unlike the first issue in my opinion, legitimate concerns. But it's not necessarily an AWANA issue... it's a local church issue (and, perhaps in this case, an individual teacher issue). AWANA as a program may be a bit too Calvinistic and 'pray the prayer' oriented, but every individual church can adjust the program to fit their theology and preferences. As an example, I pastor at a Wesleyan Church. We started running AWANA 2 years ago, but simply modify where we deem necessary.

As for the second issue, the teacher was likely aware of the fact that a lot of kids that come to AWANA have non-Christian parents who might be against their becoming Christian. How to deal with such an issue is difficult. I'd recommend talking to the teacher in question about both matters. Your decision to stay or not will probably be clear based on how that conversation goes.
3. They pledge allegiance to the flag. Mixing God with Country doesn't sit right with me. I personally don't pledge allegiance to the flag because I feel it fringes on idolatry not to mention our country is not "one nation under God". They also pledge allegiance to the awana flag which just strikes me as stupid.
At our AWANA, we also pledge to the American flag (along with the Christian flag and the Bible). I personally, would rather not pledge (or have the kids pledge) to the American flag. But I also don't think I should always get my way. We are, of course, called to be good citizens of the nation God places us in... and pledging allegiance to the American flag need not mean anything more than that.
So, are we being too uptight or should we turn a blind eye so the kids can go have fun?
I think you have raised some good issues. Certainly you shouldn't turn a blind eye. You should talk to the teachers and the AWANA leaders (commanders?) about these issues and base your 'staying' on the quality of the conversation.

SWIFTELK
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Re: Awanas

Post by SWIFTELK » Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:02 pm

True, I don't mind the idea of them inviting kids to church. I do mind the motivation. I want them to develop a love for their neighbor not a love for them self. Seems to me that the kids that invited them were doing so not because they had a genuine care for our kids but because they get a candy bar for doing so. This is the same pattern that is repeated into adulthood. So many churches just try to get the seats filled to show a "successful program".

You're right though, a conversation wouldn't hurt. It's good to be reminded to communicate I tend to shy away from the confrontation.

MMathis
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Re: Awanas

Post by MMathis » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:09 pm

YIKES!!

Awana = bad
Girl Scouts (planned parenthood ties) = good

Double yikes!!
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Re: Awanas

Post by morbo3000 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:23 am

I've often believed that if free beer was offered, more people would be signing up to follow Jesus. Or perhaps we could incentivize evangelism.. like a multi-level marketing campaign.
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morbo3000
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Re: Awanas

Post by morbo3000 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:26 am

You are not too uptight. It really is that bad.

I'm pretty sure Faux-Unsaved-Matt would shake his head in disbelief.
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mattrose
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Re: Awanas

Post by mattrose » Fri Mar 01, 2013 3:04 am

Yikes...

that seems, to me, like a pretty hard swing at a mere curriculum that can easily be adapted to one's particular setting.

Even if the leadership of the AWANA ministry endorsed all the red-flag traits mentioned above... that still wouldn't necessitate that a given church follow suit, eh?

I'm surprised that a curriculum focused on memorizing bible verses can conjure up such vitriol.

Or am I mis-reading tone?

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morbo3000
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Re: Awanas

Post by morbo3000 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:13 pm

mattrose wrote:Yikes...am I mis-reading tone?
You are not. Though I am generally not such a troll online.

Jesus had a very special place in his heart for children. So, the experience of faith in Jesus that we model for them is very, very important. We are warned to not cause them to stumble. I believe that the three things SWIFTELK listed fit that category. While each of these is its own thread, (I'll save my discussion on these subjects for another time) that's why I think the issues warrant that strong of an opinion. (Though probably not trolling.)

1. Connecting faithfulness with earthly rewards. My son received raffle tickets as rewards for things like attendance, bringing friends, memorization. He won a bike in the raffle, but wasn't present so he didn't get it. Every step of that path is ridiculous.

2. Connecting participation in the body of Christ with citizenship. A flag in a church is anathema, let alone pledging allegiance to it. Can you imagine a Christian in the 1st century walking into someone's home for a church meeting and finding that the host had an idol to the emperor? And then asked you to pledge allegiance to it

3. Connecting discipleship with a private sinners prayer. This is the worst of the three. Instilling fear of eternal fire in a ten year old is akin to child abuse. If it was that important to Jesus, we would have heard him teaching repentance, forgiveness and eternal security to the children that came to him. Not only did he not do that with them, it wasn't even the crux of his message. In the book of Mark, the clearest teaching we have on eternal life is with the rich young ruler. It was his unwillingness to part with his riches that threatened his eternal destiny. Jesus' message was forgiveness of sins, paying attention to the heart rather than religious observance, and the Kingdom of God. While I don't deny the role those play in eternity, the gospel of Jesus in Mark isn't addressing eternity. The type of teaching given to children at these programs is providing them with a token that misses the whole point of Jesus' teaching.

What we model and teach children begets like fruit as teens and adults. Those 3 points are clearly faults to me, and very damaging.

SWIFTELK wrote: So, are we being too uptight or should we turn a blind eye so the kids can go have fun.
In the first century, Roman Christians were having a problem figuring out whether or not they could eat meat sacrificed to idols. Paul knew that they had the freedom in Christ to eat what they wanted. But to those who had a conviction about it he told them that if they had doubts about whether or not they should eat something, they are sinning if they go ahead and do it. Because they are not following their convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, he said, you are sinning. (Romans 14:23)

Your question sounded like you had a lot of convictions about the matter. Rather than lack of conviction, your concern seems to be uncertainty about whether or not you are making a mountain out of a molehill, or keeping your kids from fun. I say host pizza parties at your house.. take your kids and their friends bowling.
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mattrose
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Re: Awanas

Post by mattrose » Fri Mar 01, 2013 4:10 pm

morbo3000 wrote:1. Connecting faithfulness with earthly rewards. My son received raffle tickets as rewards for things like attendance, bringing friends, memorization. He won a bike in the raffle, but wasn't present so he didn't get it. Every step of that path is ridiculous
While the way that particular AWANA group went about may have been annoying, the concept of rewarding good behavior is certainly not as evil as you make it sound. Indeed, it's not evil at all.
2. Connecting participation in the body of Christ with citizenship. A flag in a church is anathema, let alone pledging allegiance to it. Can you imagine a Christian in the 1st century walking into someone's home for a church meeting and finding that the host had an idol to the emperor? And then asked you to pledge allegiance to it
You can't insist that everyone share your personal conviction about flags. I personally do. I would rather they not be in churches. But clearly the Bible does teach us to be good citizens so long as doing so doesn't go against God. Having a flag and saying a pledge need not mean more than that.
3. Connecting discipleship with a private sinners prayer. This is the worst of the three. Instilling fear of eternal fire in a ten year old is akin to child abuse. If it was that important to Jesus, we would have heard him teaching repentance, forgiveness and eternal security to the children that came to him. Not only did he not do that with them, it wasn't even the crux of his message. In the book of Mark, the clearest teaching we have on eternal life is with the rich young ruler. It was his unwillingness to part with his riches that threatened his eternal destiny. Jesus' message was forgiveness of sins, paying attention to the heart rather than religious observance, and the Kingdom of God. While I don't deny the role those play in eternity, the gospel of Jesus in Mark isn't addressing eternity. The type of teaching given to children at these programs is providing them with a token that misses the whole point of Jesus' teaching.
One of the theme's of my own ministry is the inadequacy of the 'sinners prayer' mindset. But the question was about the AWANA program. And, frankly, AWANA need not emphasize that. That was my point. AWANA is a curriculum. Individual churches can use it however they want. I agreed that there were some warning signs in the particular AWANA group the poster visited. My advice was to start a dialogue about such things. Your advice seems to be to condemn the church and the entire AWANA ministry. I don't think you're playing fair in this thread. You're assuming the worst possible motives based on the briefest possible descriptions.

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morbo3000
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Re: Awanas

Post by morbo3000 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 5:53 pm

mattrose wrote:I don't think you're playing fair in this thread. You're assuming the worst possible motives based on the briefest possible descriptions.
I'm just answering his question. He had the same concerns I do. Like I said in my reply, the issues he raised describing his local group are hot-button issues that deserve their own thread.
mattrose wrote:The question was about the AWANA program. And, frankly, AWANA need not emphasize that.
I think we understand what he was asking differently. Which is fine. It explains your reaction to my reply. He said "My wife and I are trying to determine if we are too uptight or not and would like to take into account some other opinions to balance out (or justify) our concerns with awanas." I think you thought he was trying to determine something about the Awana international org+curriculum based on what he saw locally. I didn't hear him that way. I heard him asking for advice about the local program. Which makes sense, since he has to base his kids' involvement on what he sees locally.. not Awana int'l. I don't know enough about Awana int'l to know if it's the local group or Awana int'l that are off the reservation. I'm directly responding to the three points he made. My strong opinion on the subject is based on his description of those three things he experienced locally. And my experience of similar programs.. including most VBS's.

It's safe to assume that churches, leaders, Awana itself all have great motives. These are all nice people. Well-intentioned. It certainly exposes kids to Bible stories. And fun. And their desire to evangelize children is laudable.

You are a pastor, yes? Do you have Awana in your church? Or a similar children's program?
When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
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