When my daughters were young, they attended Awana at a local church in our community. They were eager to participate, and they were blessed by the commitment the program made (and continues to make) to scripture memorization. I bet many of you have been similarly blessed by a local Awana program, so I’m delighted to announce a new generation of Awana for high school students. My good friend, Sean McDowell, has partnered with Awana to create a program that is sure to impact the hearts and minds of young people. He agreed to tell us about the future of Awana and this new effort to equip high school students:
J. WARNER: “Most people in the church are familiar with Awana. But for those who might not be (or who haven’t been enrolled in an Awana program), can you explain it briefly and tell us why you wanted to join their efforts?”
SEAN: “Sure! Awana is a remarkable ministry committed to discipling students through Bible study and Scripture memorization. I did an AWANA program at my local church as a kid and loved it. But until recently, I had no idea they had such a widespread and influential youth ministry as well (not to mention their international reach). When I learned about their desire to reinvent their high school ministry, and that the entire second year (of a four-year cycle) would focus on training students in apologetics and worldview, it was an easy decision.”
J. WARNER: “What is unique about the approach Awana is taking with students?”
SEAN: “There are a few things that make this curriculum unique. First, the quality is remarkable. Awana has poured an unbelievable amount of resources—marketers, writers, editors, and a film crew—to make this curriculum top-notch.
Second, we are taking a very systematic approach to teaching apologetics and worldview to students. As you can see in the scope and sequence, each lesson builds naturally from the previous one and sets the stage for the next. We put dozens and dozens of hours thinking through every component including unit themes, topics, passages to study, where and how to film each video, memory passages, the accompanying artwork, and more. It was an arduous but deeply rewarding process.
Third, leaders don’t have to be experts to teach it. We do the work for you! While we unashamedly challenge students to stretch their thinking about faith, the material is taught in a way that is both accessible and interesting. In fact, leaders who take students through the material will also be challenged in their own worldview thinking along the way.”
J. WARNER: “What are some of the prominent features of the Awana program you have developed for students?”
SEAN: “One of my favorite sections is what we called ‘Signposts.’ While we cover the standard apologetics topics (e.g., truth, science and faith, evidence for the Bible, problem of evil, etc.), in this section we cover topics that are often ignored. And to me, they’re some of the most compelling evidences we have!
For instance, we have a lesson on the existence of objective beauty (which we filmed in a rose garden) in which we contend that beauty points to the reality of a Divine Artist. We also have a lesson on how the objective structure of stories indicates that we are not a cosmic accident but part of a Grand Story. We filmed this one in a movie theater. It’s important for apologetics to resonate with both the head and the heart. And we believe this section will help do that.”
J. WARNER: “What is the curriculum like?”
SEAN: “It is a 32-week study. Lessons include a 7-10 minute video to help students grasp the core concept. Each video was scripted carefully and shot in a unique place. For instance, we shot the video on Hell in the middle of a desert (to indicate isolation and death), monotheism on the top of a mountain (since prophets often claim that God speaks on a mountain), pantheism in the forest (since new agers claim that God is in nature), and so on. It was a ton of work and time to get to these places, but we had a blast filming them and the end result is super cool.
The curriculum also includes student workbooks with short Bible studies to help reinforce the theme of the week, a Bible memory verse, reflection questions, creative projects and more. And there is a leader’s guide to help with facilitation. The format has been tested in multiple youth groups and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It could also easily be used in homeschool settings and Christian schools.”
J. WARNER: “What are your hopes for this project?”
SEAN: “It has been a dream of mine for years to take the lessons I have developed in working with students and make them more widely available to the church. Until now, I simply haven’t had the resources to make it happen. AWANA has been a Godsend. They approached me at the perfect time, and since we share a common vision, it has been a seamless match. My dream is to see thousands of Christian young people learn to think more deeply about their faith, so they can live it out with boldness, and also be willing to share their faith more thoughtfully with others. I get goose bumps thinking that it just might happen.”
Nearly half of the articles I’ve written here at ColdCaseChristianity.com involve the training and education of young Christians. If you’re as passionate as I am about equipping the next generation of believers, I hope you’ll get your kids involved in this new Awana program, and I also hope you’ll also consider becoming an Awana leader.
For more information about strategies to help you teach Christian worldview to the next generation, please read So the Next Generation Will Know: Training Young Christians in a Challenging World. This book teaches parents, youth pastors and Christian educators practical, accessible strategies and principles they can employ to teach the youngest Christians the truth of Christianity. The book is accompanied by an eight-session So the Next Generation Will Know DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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