If you're a parent, chances are your child is enrolled in an extracurricular activity: gymnastics, dance, baseball, Scouts or the like.
But you may not know of one activity for kids that's right in your neighborhood. It's called AWANA, which stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed. The worldwide youth and children's ministry serves more than 100 denominations in the U.S. alone.
On Sunday evenings at Poplar Grove Baptist Church, kids age 3 to sixth grade meet with their group: Puggles (ages 2-3), Cubbies (preschool), Sparkies (K-second grade) or Truth & Training (third through sixth grades).
"I have had a hand in almost all parts of the AWANA team at this point, and it is a very rewarding ministry for both the clubbers and the leaders," said Jason Brame, AWANA commander at Poplar Grove. "I should also say that our leaders are people of God who have a real hunger to show children the love of Christ and the church."
AWANA programs have been around worldwide for almost 60 years. More than 12,000 churches in the U.S. and 6,500 internationally participate. Each week more than a million kids worldwide ages 2-18 attend an AWANA meeting.
Besides regular meetings, the group has theme nights.
"On Snowman Night the clubbers earn rolls of toilet paper for sections passed in the handbook," Brame said. "They then use that TP to roll yours truly into the sweatiest snowman on earth. Toilet paper is a great insulator, and by time they are done, I am roasting. Ahhh, the perks of being a commander."
On award nights, members are decorated with new badges or patches.
"They earn these by completing chapters in their handbooks," Brame said. "It is so rewarding to see the glow in their face when they earn a new patch or jewel."
I asked Brame, who has been involved in AWANA for almost seven years, what makes it so rewarding.
"The scriptures they learn in AWANA will help them to know right from wrong in a world that seems to have lost its moral compass," he said. "Also the social interaction with other children and adults who love Christ is invaluable in helping them know the love of the Christian community. This helps them feel that they have a strong foundation when they face the world...."
Children can join an AWANA group anytime of the year and even attend a meeting on a trial basis to see what it is like.
For more information on an AWANA program near you, go to www.awana.org.