A friend of mine wrote on her blog today that she was having some concerns about her three boys attending an AWANA program. So I thought I would answer some questions about AWANA and do some 'splaining. My two have participated in AWANA since they were 3 or 4, and I have taught Preschoolers, Junior High and High School aged AWANA for about 5 or so years. I'm not bragging that I am in the inner-sanctum or anything, or that I think the boys should go, my intent is to provide info for you to make a decision.
Background: AWANA stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed. The Bible verse that represents the name/ties the Bible to it is 2 Timothy 2:15: Study to show thyself, approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed. You can interpret this verse a few different ways. You can interpret it that you can gain information in different places, including the Bible, approving your belief in God, but you shouldn't be ashamed in whatever you believe.
As an AWANA leader in Rochester and Durham, the intent of the leaders is to present the Christian facts to the child, help them study the Bible and learn verses and let them make their own decision, hopefully accepting/believing in Jesus. The leaders/teachers are doing their part in their evangelism beliefs reaching out to the child, in turn reaching out to the family/parent in hopes that AWANA provides information to those that are searching for something or still trying to find their faith.
If the boys are going to First B...now I guess it is called Autumn Ridge, the program is very light...VERY social and low key. Autumn Ridge has so many kids, don't get me wrong-they do a great job of organizing, it's just that when I was there they were so busy going through the motions and trying to get all the "boxes checked" and not spending a bunch of one on one "Come to Jesus" time. Autumn Ridge's AWANA program is NOT reminiscent of a Hitler-Youth organization where they stand in formation, wear uniforms and pledge to the Christian Flag, the Bible and the AWANA flag. (That is the first 10 minutes at our church's AWANA).
Each AWANA is broken up into 3 segments. A council time-watching a video about people in a different country, making a scrapbooking project, having a Bible lesson, they do lots of different things. A handbook time-where they do their memorization and get AWANA dollars for work they learn (dollars are used to buy things at an AWANA store). The goal in handbook time is to finish segments of a book, then an entire book to eventually get thru the entire Bible from Cubbies to Varsity (preschoolers - High schoolers in layman's terms). Game time-they play dodge ball, soccer, prison break...all those crazy kids love. Basic PE time. The kids are broken up into age groups...if you are really interested in all that I could give you the low down.
The conclusion? I think Susan is right. I think you should talk to the Mom-invitee' and lay it on the line. Tell her what you believe and that you are not opposed to your boys going or making decisions on their own, but you feel a little guilty about the fact that your boys are participating in something that you aren't necessarily reinforcing at home and you feel a little like you are using her.
If I were the Mom I would be totally fine with that. I, Cara, have made the decision to support my kids in their choice of attending AWANA, I want to be there and be involved because I want to support the program, and I'm driving there anyway, so why wouldn't I provide a night out for someone else?
Heck, maybe I should add that this year in AWANA I only teach every other AWANA because I am selfishly going out to dinner with MY husband and pawning my kids off for a night alone with D. I know my relationship with D can always use some alone time, and I am sure that yours, and every other marriage, can always use some marital time. As I always remind my work-a-holic husband...we are going to be married long after our kids are in college and adults, we'd better work on our relationship now so we still like each other then.