Approved Men are Not Ashamed (Awana) Ministry, an integrated evangelism and discipleship programme that started in the US in 1941, is making in roads in Malawi, following its introduction in 1999, the country’s programme overseer has disclosed.
Reports of Awana ministry’s growth locally comes just after a national survey in the US found that Awana’s activities were as important to its alumni’s spiritual foundations as other church programmes. Among the alumni who participated in its programmes for, at least, six years, 92 out of every one hundred were still attending to church at least weekly.
Each week, over 12, 000 churches in the US and more than 10,000 internationally-run Awana programmes, in addition to the 1.5 million youth, 250, 000 volunteers and 170 field staff who take part in its activities the world over.
Awana programmes overseer in Malawi, Pastor Rusten Kalenga, revealed in an interview that the local programme has registered tremendous growth since its establishment in 1999.
“The programme is growing at a faster pace, with three churches establishing children’s spiritual clubs. So far, the programme is being run independently in the Baptist Church, Faith in God and the Evangelical Church of Malawi. In terms of clubs, there are 138, which points to growth,” said Kalenga.
Kalenga said the programme, which targets young people from the age of two to 18, has so far distributed various materials to nine orphanages. He added that Awana Malawi was still interested in establishing partnerships with orphanages in all parts of the country.
“Through the programme, we distribute spiritual books to children, apart from instilling a sense of discipline in them. We also share what we have with the less privileged. Because this is an inter-denominational programme, it also helps foster unity among churches,” Kalenga said.
Speaking in a separate interview, Awana Ministry programme director at Blantyre Baptist Church, McNovance Potani, hailed the programme for changing children’s lives in the church.
“Experience has shown that children who take part in Awana programmes are disciplined and do well in class. For example, all Awana child members at Blantyre Baptist Academy passed their Primary School Leaving Certificate examinations, an indication that the programme really changes children and makes them more responsible,” Potani said.
Awana began as a children's program at the North Side Gospel Center in Chicago in 1941. Lance Latham, North Side's senior pastor, collaborated with the church's youth director, Art Rorheim, to develop weekly clubs that would appeal to churched and non-churched kids, lead them to trust Christ for salvation and grow them in enduring faith and service to God.
Other churches learned about the success of the program and inquired about its availability. In 1950, Latham and Rorheim founded Awana as a parachurch organization. By 1960, 900 churches had started Awana programs and, by 1972, the programme established its first international club.
Potani said founders of Awana derived the name from the first letters of "Approved workmen are not ashamed" as taken from 2 Timothy 2:15 of the Bible.
Today, more than 12,000 U.S. churches run Awana with programs in all 50 states. Awana can also be found in over 10,000 churches in 109 other countries, with Jack Eggar as the President and Art Rorheim serving as Co-Founder and President Emeritus.
“Churches that are yet to join are free to come. Let us unite for a better tomorrow,” Kalenga said.