AWANA And the Quest For Spiritual Knowledge

Keith KettenringBible Stuff, Christian Living, Motley Christian

I watched this clip from The Andy Griffith Show a couple weeks ago and, with my convoluted mind, thought of Awana.

How many kids, sitting in front of their Awana leader, try to recall the words to verses they thought they’d memorized? Awana is very strict about “word-for-word” memory and only a couple “helps.” I wonder how many kids were traumatized by the experience as were taught by it.

Awana (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed) is a children’s program churches adopt to encourage Bible memory, fun experiences, and adult to child mentoring. It is competitive at its core with an award system to help kids memorize scripture and progress through workbooks.

On their website they describe themselves: Awana is a global, nonprofit ministry committed to the belief that the greatest impact for Christ starts with kids who know, love and serve Him.

Scripture Not An End in Itself

This post is not a critique of AWANA as a whole. I’m just poking fun at the method of memorizing verses which becomes an end in itself.

Awana required children to memorize dozens of scripture verses in a short time so they could win “Awana bucks” to spend at the “Awana store” and to win pins and awards. Memorizing scripture is certainly worth doing. Yet, when the goal is memorizing scripture compared to living the scripture, I see a problem. What child can apply 2-4 verses a week to real life?

When the reward system is added to the mix, things really get messed up. Memorization becomes about performing well and winning. Competition breeds envy, jealousy, and superiority. My child must win the Timothy award or I’ll be embarrassed for being a poor parent and, even worse, a poor Christian parent.

I know I’m dealing with a sacred cow here for many of you.

Scripture Memory Ineffective

How many adults who went through Awana can recall the verses they memorized? Memorizing is valuable but not as an end in itself. If the knowledge of scripture is a means of drawing your heart closer to God, then it is profitable. When you only cram words in to spit them out, there is little value.

To “hide God’s word in my heart” is more than committing it to memory and having it ready for recall. The process of securing scripture to a heart level entails the struggle of living it. That means experientially knowing it by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The ability to quote verses means little if you can’t back them up with your life.

Do you actually think that, according to Psalm 119.11, if you memorize verses of the Bible you will not sin? Is that what memory programs are trying to teach us?

How’s that working out for you? I’m not sure my children sinned less because they memorized Awana verses. Maybe so. It’s been a few years since all this took place.

I just read some comments on a blog about Awana from a couple of adult atheists who attended Awana all their childhood years. It obviously didn’t “work” for them as intended.

Anyway, I digress. My point: memorizing scripture at any point in your life guarantees nothing. If you’re a Timothy award winner, don’t feel guilty that you’ve forgotten most (or all) those verses. Read scripture now and by God’s grace, seek to live it.

Look at ol’ Barny. He had it down cold…so he thought.

Living it beats memorizing it any day.