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Executive Director of U.S. Ministries
Richard Yandle serves as executive director of U.S. Ministries for Awana. Richard provides leadership, training and encouragement to more than 100 missionaries serving in every U.S. state.
A commitment to equip leaders
Richard accepted the position of executive director of U.S. Ministries in 2007. He now provides oversight to 100 missionaries around the U.S. who in turn each oversee hundreds of churches in their respective regions.
“I’ve never heard of anything that reaches people like Awana,” Richard stated. “Awana is a tool of the local church to reach kids with the gospel.”
Trained for leadership
Originally from Faith, North Carolina, the name of Richard’s hometown reflects the driving force in his life. Richard’s faith in Christ continues to be his top priority.
Leadership has been a running theme throughout most of Richard’s life. His first leadership experience occurred when he became an Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in Boy Scouts. By age 21, he served as scoutmaster of his troop and honed his leadership skills.
Additional leadership training further prepared him for future ministry roles. After graduating from high school in Virginia, Richard embarked on a four-year apprenticeship with the Norfolk Naval Shipyard to become a pipe fitter. He worked for 17 years for the Navy as a civilian in a variety of roles, from nuclear mechanic and systems inspector to ship surveyor and foreman.
Transferring to Jacksonville, Florida in 1984, Richard worked as a Navy representative to help administer contracts with non-governmental shipyards that constructed ships for the Navy.
An introduction to Awana
As members of San Pablo Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Richard and his wife, Kim, eagerly jumped into a leadership role with the church’s Awana program in 1985. Richard started with a group of third-and fourth-grade boys.
By the next year, the church recognized Richard’s leadership skills and passion for kids and appointed him to oversee the church’s entire Awana program from preschool to high school. In just two years, Awana attendance grew from 30 kids to over 120 each week as Richard inspired volunteer leaders to invest their hearts in reaching and impacting kids and created an irresistible environment of fun and learning in weekly meetings. Richard witnessed the core Awana values of evangelism and discipleship in action and how God changed young lives for eternity.
“Awana became bigger than Sunday morning Sunday school classes at our church,” Richard said. “The children and teens all loved Awana. They loved the fun and excitement of our gatherings. They felt valued by their leaders. They grew hungry to learn God’s Word. They eagerly invited their friends, too.”
‘Awana kids can be our kids’
Working with kids gave the Yandles a desire to start their own family. Richard and Kim discovered they could not have biological children and struggled with children being born all around them to church families. They eventually decided that the “Awana kids can be our kids,” Richard recalled.
But God had a plan in place to bless their lives.
Kim worked in a doctor’s office. One day, a friend of the doctor asked if he knew of anyone able to adopt a 3-year-old girl. The Yandles were ready, and the adoption process began with their lawyer. Teresa, now 25, was soon a part of their family.
Ten days later, their lawyer called and asked if they would also like to adopt a baby that was to be born soon after. Steven, now 22, also joined the Yandle family.
“God has always blessed me,” Richard said.
A life-altering career change
Richard’s call into full-time ministry occurred during a Palm Sunday church service in 1993.
“I can remember the Lord saying to me, ‘I want you to become an Awana missionary and to do it now,’” Richard said.
When Richard told Kim of his experience, Kim replied, “The same thing happened to me.”
Richard added, “God had been working on us for a couple of years. We had been helping our local Awana missionary, regionally, as advisory board members. We had seen many young lives changed and the effectiveness of Awana in other churches as well as our own.”
The process to become a full-time Awana missionary began. Richard resigned from his naval career. He was invited to minister to churches throughout Georgia. Richard and his family moved there that fall.
In 14 years as an Awana missionary in Georgia (six of which he oversaw several missionaries in the southeastern region), Richard helped expand the presence of Awana in churches around the state, growing from 128 churches in 1993 to over 800 in 2007. Richard and his ministry team partnered with churches by training leaders and preparing them for effective ministry to children and youth. Richard’s passion for Awana and youth and children’s ministry was contagious, whether he was speaking to volunteers at an Awana conference or motivating his ministry team to introduce more churches to Awana.
“I’ve never heard of anything that reaches people like Awana,” Richard shared. “Awana is a tool of the local church to reach kids with the gospel.”
How to contact Richard
To schedule an interview, contact Media Relations Manager David Bunker at 630.540.4695 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.