Baptist churches offer Awana activities for youths

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Two Craig Awana clubs kick off new years of youth group this week.

Awana is a youth group not unlike a religious Boy Scout troop. Members wear uniforms on which they display the awards they earn while working through activity books, memorizing verses and participating in activities ranging from patriotism to community service.

Both groups meet at Craig's Baptist churches, First Baptist and Calvary Baptist. But that doesn't mean Awana is a Baptist youth group, said Pastor Rod Compton of Calvary Baptist.

"Awana does cross denominational lines. You don't need to be a Baptist," Compton said.

"We want to reach outside," he said. "People draw lines and say, 'You're not a Baptist, you can't come.' That's not us."

The Awana youth group at Calvary Baptist is open to children as young as 3 and teens old enough to be seniors in high school. About 100 members are enrolled in the club, and 60 to 80 members attend each meeting. About 25 to 30 adults help organize each meeting.

Meetings consist of three parts, Compton said. Council time involves singing and specific teachings from the Bible. During book time, Awana members work through their handbooks, garnering awards for their accomplishments.

"The projects they work on keep them focused on who they are and where they're headed," Compton said.

At game time, groups compete around the Awana circle in team games.

Members accumulate points for their accomplishments, winning games and completing handbook assignments. Some members complete as many as four books a year, Compton said.

They can use the points to purchase gifts for their parents before Christmas at the Awana store. Store items include small appliances, CD players and CDs.

Generally, younger children are attracted to Awana because they enjoy wearing uniforms and getting badges, Compton said. But Awana has a strong group of teenagers, as well, he said.

Members are divided into groups by age for the meetings.

Each month, the club has a special night with a certain theme. One night is camouflage night. Another night is backward night, where members wear their clothes backward. On bring-a-friend night, members earn points for bringing a friend to the meeting.

The club hosts a derby race similar to the Boy Scout's pine wood derby car races, and the younger children have a boat race.

Awana was started in 1950 at the North Side Gospel Church in Chicago. Pastor Lance Latham and Art Rorheim developed it to teach young people the gospel of Jesus. By 1960, Awana had grown to 900 clubs.

First Baptist Church hosts Awana for children 3 years old through those in the sixth grade on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. Seventh- and eighth-graders meet Sunday evenings at 6 p.m.

Calvary Baptist Church hosts Awana for children 3 years old through twelfth grade on Sundays starting at 5 p.m. starting this Sunday. The members will kick off their first meeting with a pizza party.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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