The AWANA program was founded in 1950 as a parachurch organization. The discipleship program is a nonprofit ministry designed for children ages two to 18 and is supported by volunteer church leaders, members and parents. As a parachurch organization, AWANA often crosses denominational and national boundaries, offering its specialized programming to many worldwide.
The organization reports that more than four million children and youth, 470,000 volunteers and 260 field staff take part in AWANA in more than 47,000 churches around the world.
First Baptist Church Huntersville started offering the AWANA program in 2018 and is currently in its fifth year of providing the Sunday evening program to the surrounding communities. The church has a van ministry for children who need transportation to AWANA each week. Vans head out around 4 p.m. beginning on Rt. 219 from Hillsboro to Edray and then Rt. 39 from Marlinton to Huntersville.
Attendance each week runs between 20 and 35, with approximately 15 volunteers who work directly with the young people. An additional support group of 12 volunteers helps with cooking, driving the vans, and other floating positions, as needed. The AWANA program begins in mid-August and continues through May, mainly following the public school system schedule.
Each week AWANA hosts a fun theme. The theme for the December 3 meeting, was Glow In The Dark night where everyone could show off glowing bracelets, shirts, hats, etc. Backwards night, mismatch socks, crazy hat, and silly hair are a few of the fun themes they have from week to week.
AWANA begins at 5 p.m. with everyone meeting in the sanctuary for a time of songs – some with motion – and videos, as well as a brief message from the pastor on subjects from the Bible, respect for others, behavior, etc.
Afterwards, everyone heads to the kitchen for a meal. Rayetta, head of the kitchen staff, usually plans to feed about 50 people each week. Some of the kid-friendly meals include spaghetti, hamburgers, corndogs, pizza, salads, mashed potatoes, green beans or other vegetables, and a dessert. Water and Kool-aid are also provided.
After dinner, the young people move into their age-appropriate classrooms. The Cubbies class is geared toward preschoolers ages 4-5. Sparks age range is K-second grade and T&T is for third through fifth graders.
The Huntersville church also has a combined youth group for sixth through 12th graders. Class time is interactive with reading lessons, questions and answers, study time and a time for fellowship.
There’s time for games and crafts, and there is a lot of room outside for games when the weather permits; and there are many indoor friendly activities, as well. A modified version of dodge ball is a group favorite. The game-time leaders not only use standard types of activities like capture the flag, board games, but are also skilled at coming up with unusual and unique games on the spot, keeping the students guessing from week to week. While the students are involved in all of the AWANA activities, there is also an interactive class for parents and other adults that starts at 6 p.m.
The night ends at 7 p.m. and the children board the vans to return home.