JACKSONVILLE, Ark. – At First Baptist Church (FBC) of Jacksonville, Bob Fielding – Consultant for Chaplaincy & National/International Missions at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention – serves alongside their church’s children’s minister and faithful volunteers to reach families through Awana.
Awana claims that they are “a world-wide nonprofit ministry focused on providing Bible-based evangelism and discipleship solutions for ages 2-18. As the global leader in child and youth discipleship, Awana gives children the opportunity to know, love and serve Jesus, no matter their background” (awana.org/about). Awana has been influential in the children’s ministry of FBC Jacksonville, as they use Awana materials for elementary-aged kids and below.
Fielding said, “Due to COVID-19 concerns with several of our workers and our families, we realized that our normal, live Awana was not going to happen. So the question was, ‘what do we do?’ We started talking to Kerry Murphy – our Children’s Minister – and the consensus was that doing nothing was not an option. I did a poll to find out which workers were interested in doing this virtually, and we have figured it out from there.”
Fielding shared that their parents, volunteers and team have been unbelievably committed to better discipling their children. As a leadership team, they actively contact the parents of the children with the resources, and the parents equip their children with the Bible material.
Sam Adkins – one of FBC Jacksonville’s volunteers – gave an idea in a Zoom planning meeting. She shared that she works in a school and uses Google Classroom, and she thought it would be awesome for their church’s Awana. They now have Google Classrooms for each of their groups, and this also satisfies their need for online security. They populate the classroom with weekly lessons, which positions their parents to then teach their children the lessons.
“It’s the parents who can – who have to – do this with their children. What we have now is a system where our people are drawing from the lessons and giving a little bit of lesson plan time each week. At the end of the week, part of the lesson plan is for the parent to video their kid saying their memory verse and uploading it to the Google Classroom we use,” Fielding shared.
Their volunteers are then able to comment to encourage and celebrate the children memorizing God’s Word and growing. Not only are local church members participating in FBC Jacksonville’s Awana online, but four international families have already joined their Awana study online. “We are potentially going to have even more international families join us. This is starting a ministry that I didn’t even know was possible,” Fielding said.
Fielding passionately shared, “The bottom line is that where we were doing much of the training in Awana, the parent is now doing the training. The notion that parents don’t want to be as involved in teaching their kids the Bible is simply false. Our parents are involved. In this case, if the parents don’t do it, then it doesn’t happen. We are resourcing and emailing the parents, not the kids. Don’t dismiss this and say ‘parents won’t do this’ – we have 14 families saying ‘oh yes we will.’”
Fielding said, “Our church members will step up to the plate and do things that challenge them and stretch them because they love Jesus. I really see it and it’s amazing. These people are having to put lessons and stuff together to fit the scheme we are using on Google Classroom and writing things that the parents can use very easily.”