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An Outreach Tool to Reach Outside the Congregation
How Awana is helping a Kansas church impact its community -- bringing kids and parents to Christ, growing children in God’s Word and developing missions-minded young hearts
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A few years ago, Roger Stuart’s life changed dramatically. He trusted Christ for salvation through the ministry of First Family Church in Overland Park, Kansas.
“I came to First Family Church in hopes of finding a great children's ministry for my daughter,” Roger said. “I was more concerned with her spiritual growth than my own. But listening to my pastor preach, I felt like he wasn't talking to a congregation of 2,000; he was talking to me and my own personal struggles.
“Through his teachings, along with another pastor, I came to accept Christ as my Savior. So we initially came for our daughter, but God had his eyes on me, too!”
Finding purpose and a place to serve
The children’s pastor saw Roger around church and noticed how kids were drawn to him like a magnet. He knew that Roger would be a perfect fit for children’s ministry and specifically Awana.
Roger soon became the third- to sixth-grade (T&T) director and served in that role for two years.
“It’s the best decision I ever made,” Roger said. “I have a tremendous passion to reach kids for Christ. God has given me the spiritual gift of evangelism.”
Roger used that passion this past year in his new roles as both commander and full-time kids’ pastor at First Family Church.
“I believe in all that Awana is doing,” Roger explained. “Awana is a great resource.”
Roger is in awe of all that God did this past year through the various Awana programs and events.
Here are a few Awana highlights.
Attendance, first-time visitors and salvation decisions
Roger and the leaders set a goal to draw 200 kids to Awana on Wednesday nights. Attendance averaged close to 200 every night since January. On one night, attendance hit 293 kids.
One special Awana program, Great ShakeUP, equips leaders, parents and children to reach more kids for Christ by encouraging kids to invite their friends to Awana. The children at First Family Church took on the challenge. Their efforts brought 171 first-timers to Awana.
“The kids did all the work,” said Roger, whose daughter is in the Sparks (kindergarten to second-grade) program. “It worked so well that we did Great ShakeUP twice this year. The kids were highly motivated to reach their friends so they could hear about Jesus.”
The best part amidst all the numbers was that 55 kids trusted Christ for their eternal salvation this year at Awana.
AwanaGames organizes clubs from local churches to compete in action-packed games. First Family finished in second place in its local AwanaGames event. The Sparks girls and boys finished in first place at Sparks-a-Rama, the Sparks version of AwanaGames held on the same day.
First Family participated for the third year in Bible Quizzing, a competition that challenges kids from different churches in their Bible knowledge. First Family's T&T boys and girls took second place, and a few girls had perfect scores.
One of Roger’s goals this past year was to teach the kids in Awana about international missions and how God is using Awana around the world. He set a challenge to raise $500 for needy Awana clubs overseas.
“The first part of our challenge focused on Africa,” Roger said. “We held two theme nights called ‘Nickel and Dime Night.’ Kids were asked to bring in their nickels and dimes. We had a contest to see which group could bring in the most. We have a lot of giving kids in our church. They raised $270.”
The second part of the international focus introduced kids to an Awana missionary from Nepal who visited club one night.
“He shared what life is like in Nepal and in the refugee camps,” Roger explained. “Our theme this night was ‘Change the World.’ Kids brought all their spare change to donate to Awana clubs in Nepal. They gave over $280.”
Reaching the community with the love of Christ
Stories of lives changed by the power of Christ are the most important highlights of First Family Church’s Awana year. One story especially stands out.
During Great ShakeUP, a sixth-grade girl invited a friend to Awana. The friend came and soon trusted Christ for her eternal future. Over time, the friend’s mom began attending church and she, too, made the decision to trust Christ. She was a single mom who was pregnant and struggling with decisions about her baby.
Several church members reached out and ministered to this mom, supporting her and praying for her. She decided to keep the baby.
“I’m so proud of this sixth-grader,” Roger said. “It all started with Great ShakeUP.”
Summer plans for kids at First Family Church
With all the great things God did this past year, Roger wants to keep kids growing in their faith over the summer, too. Last summer, First Family used another Awana resource, TruthScripts™, that encourages both adults and kids to continue memorizing God’s Word.
“We all memorized Psalm 1 and Psalm 78 last summer over nine weeks. The kids went on stage in front of the whole congregation and recited these Psalms at the end of summer,” Roger said. “It showed parents that there’s something worthwhile still happening on Wednesday nights at church. We’re doing it again this summer.”
Roger is also excited to offer High Power Soccer to kids from church and the community. The weeklong summer outreach program provides soccer skills and games and presents the gospel during camp sessions. He hopes to have 150 kids attend.
'It is about the future of these kids'
“This year marked the beginning of many great Awana years to come at First Family Church,” Roger concluded. “I thank my faithful Awana leaders for making this a memorable year.”
One of those leaders is a first-year volunteer who was hesitant at first to serve in Awana:
“I love when you connect with the kids and get acknowledgments with waves, high-fives and hugs. What a blessing it is to have a positive influence on them. I was fortunate enough to lead one little girl to Christ a few weeks ago. I will always remember welcoming that little girl as my sister in Christ as one of the greatest joys I’ve had in Awana.
“I've learned that my part in this ministry is not about fulfilling a commitment to serve. It is about the future of these kids and to help them grow spiritually. This is God's work. I am happy that He is using me as a part of it.”