Non-denominational Bible club, AWANA, wants kids to be well versed in scripture
A new group of children may be seen walking around town in vests full of badges and pins but they're not going to be boy scouts or girl scouts.
A nondenominational Bible group will begin with a sign-up Sept. 19 at the First Southern Baptist Church. AWANA, Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, is an international organization that treats Bible study more like scouting than Sunday school or vacation Bible school.
Club director Vicki Bass said what made the club like scouting were uniforms and merit programs.
"There are certificates and badges and pins that are a part of the program, so the kids are working toward something," Bass said.
Younger children have vests and older children have shirts that display the club number.
"It helps them feel more of a part of something, more of a belonging," Bass said.
Awards are earned though memorizing scripture and participating in activities. Club members work through levels of workbooks. Each meeting is divided into workbook time, counsel time to work on merit, and game time.
"It's reward-centered," said Waylon Ingle pastor at the church. "There's a lot of opportunity to work your way up in the system. The more badges and things you get higher the recognition."
In addition to earning merit, members earn points for different aspects of the club, like wearing their uniforms, attendance, or bringing a friend to a meeting. Their points earn them AWANA bucks they can spend several times a year at an AWANA "store" set up by the club.
Ingle said he worked with an AWANA program at a previous congregation in Iola. The Eudora club plans to meet every Wednesday, excluding holidays and days off school. Although the Southern Baptist church is sponsoring the club, AWANA is open to children of all faiths, Ingle said.
"I think more Baptists do it because they like the program and the may know more about it," he said.
The activities are age-appropriate so that children can handle what they're being taught, like memorizing scripture of an appropriate length.
"I think it's a wonderful compliment to existing Sunday school material and other activities that are going on because one of the biggest impressions that I got from the AWANA club is the memorization," Bass said. "It's amazing what kids are able to memorize. I just don't think that you can memorize too much."
Parents and caregivers can get involved with their children through the club, too, Ingle said.
"The parents can get pretty excited," he said. "I think it's a very family-oriented program because Mom and Dad can help with the memorization factor to help the children get through the books."
Aside from memorization, Ingle said the club will teach discipline. Some teachers in Iola liked having the club around, he said.
"They said they could tell the child who was in AWANA and those who weren't, and they wanted all their kids in AWANA," Ingle said. "I feel it helped the public schools. It has a lot of respect in the Christian realm. We're hoping we can impact some kids' lives."