I heard a discussion at church the other day that there was difficulty in finding people to work our AWANA program. "People don't want to volunteer their time because they think the kids aren't really learning anything. They may memorize the verses but they don't know what they mean. And they probably don't even remember them after they walk out of our church doors. The kids only remember the verses long enough to get credit for them," it has been said. Someone even mentioned the good old days of GA's and RA's (Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors).
Brainstorming in my head turned into a stroll down memory lane to my own GA years. I didn't get all of my patches by 6th grade because I failed to memorize all those verses. My memory cannot recall all the verses I did memorize with the exception of one or two. A memory that is clear as day in my head is of me looking at the "Be-attitudes" that I was suppose to memorize and thinking, "Oh, crap." However, I don't actually remember if I got over that, "oh crap" moment and memorized them.
Was the program a failure?
Past the memories of the legalistic parts of the program my memories get a bit meatier. Camps at Mount Lebanon where older teenagers and even college students took time out of their oh-so-cool schedule to mentor us come to mind. And how about, "Love in Any Language,"? That was the theme song ONE year (not every year) of camp and to this day if one of my fellow HRBC childhood friends begin to sing the song we all chime in. I think I even remember some of the hand motions. (We actually did this at Rachel's baby shower where all of her post-childhood friends stared oddly at us.)
But deeper than "Love In Any Language," I remember missions (I just got goose bumps as I typed the word! That's an important memory right there.). Missionaries who shared their amazing stories of salvation and God's provision, their books I read over and over again, and famous missionaries we studied about but never met who had a depth of passion I could not fathom. The impact was HUGE! GA's gave me a heart for missions that has ached inside me for decades. I've begged God to call me to far off lands to do "mission work" but in recent years I am realizing that the mission field is all around me. That realization too is fed by my roots in GA's.
Bringing it back to AWANAs I can tell you that I have sat amazed and watched as High School girls have told me stories of using scripture memorized years ago in AWANAs at our local schools. Debates happen with atheists, agnostics, and kids who just don't know what they believe. And time and time again our girls have been bold enough in apologetics to back their beliefs in scripture. Sometimes it's a verse they have memorized and other times they pull their bible out of their back pack and search a bit for it. But they know it is in there.
At the age of eight we probably don't have the full understanding of bible verses but it plants a seed. And as kids experience grace, trust, mercy, bad decisions, and good ones they will begin to understand the depth of those words they memorized. This part can't be taught.
I'm not writing here to campaign for one children's program over another. I'm only trying to remind myself of the truth that our "work for the Lord is not in vain" 1 Corinthians 15:58. Many times I have wondered if I am ever making a difference in the ministries I participate in. There are days when God feeds me with people telling me I have made an eternal difference in their life but that doesn't happen every day. There are seasons when I put forth so much effort with NO FEEDBACK. Has this ministry had an impact on anyone? Is it worth it?
The truth is...we won't know this side of heaven. One can never know what is going on in someone elses heart. So we press on and stay the course (and follow all those other wise "Paul sayings) because we can rest in the truth that our work is not in vain.