A joyous occasion for every child growing up in a conservative Christian home is the beginning of your journey in AWANAs. AWANAs is a club, of sorts. It’s like boy/girl scouts, but your patches are earned through the memorization of Bible verses, attending Sunday School etc. There are many different levels to AWANAs. Kindergarten through second grades were called Sparks. Third and fourth grades was when you split up the boys and girls. However, upon researching the names of those age groups I discovered that somewhere in the mid 1990’s AWANAs changed their format and now, they have different names for the older kids which I have never heard. I would have to assume the change was made because the terms used were very outdated references to American Indian culture.
I am sure there are variations of how the club worked, depending on location. This is how we did it at my church:
Each night was separated into three activities. First you would recite the verses you had memorized during the week. Each club member had a book with their verses to be learned. Upon reciting the Bible verses, you would receive a signature from a designated listener. That was their official title…listener. I recall in Sunday services the pastor calling for help in AWANAs, he would ask if anyone would volunteer to be, a listener. Being as AWANAs was a non-profit, I suppose many people would add it to their resumes and college applications as community service. I can imagine someone being asked, “Soooah, it says here you were a listener? Ummm, tell me about that…”
If you competed a certain set number of verses, you would get patches for your uniform. I was hot-dog excited about that when I was in Sparks. My vest sported every possible patch known when I graduated. After that, I pretty much realized bragging rights for AWANAs patches were not that impressive. However, I still to this day have my Sparks vest.
The second part of the night was group time. You sang the theme songs and then heard a bible story. I don’t remember all the songs, but the Sparks song I will never forget. I was going to sing it for you today, but I am very shy. So I lent my Sparks vest to Optimus Prime and he did it for me, complete with actions.
The final part of the night was game time. You went into a gymnasium and games were played, centered around a circle. I don’t remember all of the games, I do remember running around the circle and grabbing pins and bean bags. At the end of the year was the Big Daddy OMYGOSH it was so exciting for us…THE AWANA OLYMPICS! Here’s a promotional video from 1991. The film is old and funny for anyone, but if you ever were in AWANAs, you’re gonna appreciate it more. If nothing else, go to about 2:10 and catch a super tubular glimpse of a guy with a mullet and acid wash jeans.
Kids from churches all over the area would gather and compete for the gold medal. I fondly remember winning the event one year and thinking, “How does life get better than this?”
AWANAs is still going on in churches around the country. Patches are still being earned, the songs are still being sung. Listeners, they are still listening.