As I read the guest post by Rachael Slick regarding her conversion to Atheism, she included a picture of herself receiving an Awana award, presumably for godliness.
As someone who worked in Awana for many years–and even served as a Commander–I am very familiar with their award system. In fact, I have earned most of the awards as an adult leader, as adults are allowed–even encouraged–to earn the awards. This helps keep the adults on top of their game, and also helps motivate the kids to do their best.
Awana awards are NOT for “godliness”; Awana awards are given for demonstrated proficiency at Biblical memorization and participation in various activities (i.e. the Awana Games, or what used to be the Awana Olympics). Depending on the chapter, adults also receive “service awards” for number of years active in Awana, as well as pins and patches for various certifications (Cubbies, Sparks, Truth and Training, JV, Varsity, Commander/Director, etc.)
Awana provides a lot of structure, and includes time for activities (Game Time), Biblical memorization recital (Handbook time), and teaching of Biblical lessons (Counsel Time). Awana covers a wide swath of age groups, from age 3 through high school. Adults are permitted–even encouraged–to earn the handbook and relevant memorization awards, beginning from grades 3 on up. There are also memorization regimens specifically for adults, such as the Sword Club. Typically, every year, Awana issues a challenge–to both kids and adults–to memorize a particular chapter of the Bible. Past examples include Isaiah 53 and 1 Corinthians 13.
The materials are impressive in their depth, and provide good resources for an effective teaching and learning experience. Done rightly, Awana is an excellent vehicle for providing deep–and enjoyable–Christian education for both children and adults alike.
I like Awana. If my church asked me to start up a chapter today, I’d start one yesterday.
Having said that, I must concede: the awards culture in Awana can become problematic.
I remember going to conferences where older kids–and even adults–were wearing so many awards down their shirts that it resembled a military “salad bar” uniform display. It really struck me as ostentatious. I had a fair share of awards myself, but restricted myself to wearing one bar on my shirt, as I found them to be annoying.
I also saw parents playing the game of “My child is better than everyone else”. The awards became a quick source of pride.
Once I realized that, I stopped wearing my pins altogether. When kids asked me why I didn’t wear them, I told them, “Awards are not a mandatory part of the uniform; I’d rather not wear them.”
I still earned my pins, though. I enjoyed doing the memory work, and I enjoyed pushing the kids to do their best.
Today, if I were a Commander, I would have a simple policy regarding the wearing of awards, and it would apply across the board for kids and adults: except for award ceremonies, Awards may not be worn on uniforms, and–even then–no more than one bar may be worn. I would simply wear a plain shirt.
I think it is great to recognize achievement; at the same time, we won’t wear our crowns in heaven either.