Fostering values and discipleship to youth
Parents, leaders and students are living testimonies to the effectiveness of a youth program called Awana and the difference that it makes on the lives of youth from ages 2 to high school.
Awana is a weekly Bible program, designed to lead young people to know, love and serve Christ. They partner with parents as they seek to help their children build lives based on the Word of God. Their vision is to reach boys and girls with the Gospel of Christ and teach them to serve him.
Crook County resident Norna Sharp has been involved in Owana for approximately 18 years, and the program has been active in Prineville for almost 40 years. It currently is hosted by Calvary Chapel in Prineville. At present, it is the only Awana club in Prineville.
Sharp has worked exclusively with the "Cubbies," which is a class for 3 to 5 years old. Students memorize Bible verses, and parents are encouraged to be involved. Sharp indicated that they have a new verse every week. The curriculum introduces Biblical concepts at church, equipping families to teach them at home. The curriculum often includes activities, engaging songs, crafts and take-home resources.
"Sometimes it's a simple one, and sometimes it's a more complicated one for these little guys and girls," Sharp commented of the Bible verses.
"What just brings tears to my eyes is I can be out and about in town, and I hear a little one say, "Oh there is Awana." They don't know my name, but they know Awana. So, they call me Awana," said Sharp.
She added that as they grow up, some of her first Cubbies are now married or attending college.
"Most of them, it gets in their little minds and hearts about who Jesus is. That is what it is all about."
The younger youth get their foundation in Cubbies, and then they progress to Sparks. Sharp said that they try to make it fun and still enable them to learn. The curriculum begins at age 2 and continues until age 18. Awana includes group teaching and engagement time that makes up the flexible structure of the Awana approach. The presence of a caring adult makes all the difference in the life of a child. "Engaged leaders create lasting disciples," is also part of their theme.
"Our Cubbies motto is "Jesus Loves Me," Sharp concluded.
Local residents, Wade and Janice Flegel, have been involved in the Awana program since they had their first child, Mary, enrolled in the program. The couple has been involved as parents, teachers and leaders.
Initially, when the Flegels' daughter was in kindergarten, she was coming home with notices from various clubs, including Awana. When their daughter voiced the desire to be in a club, they encouraged her to join Awana. She began in Sparks, which is designed for kindergarten through second grade. There are also groups for third through sixth grade, middle school and high school.
When Mary started Sparks, Janice would wait at the church for her to get out of class. One of the instructors invited her to take a basic training test and to listen to the students as they memorized their verses. She soon became a leader.
Their second child, Mark, began Cubbies the year after, and Wade became involved as well.
"We really saw how good it was to memorize scripture," emphasized Janice.
Wade added that having their kids be involved in Awana also gave them the ability to work it around their farming, since they have been a farming family from the time they were married. The couple continued to help as leaders and as parents, to assist the kids to memorize their Bible verses.
"It became part of our lives in being able to grow in Christ and serving other people," said Janice.
Wade noted that Awana teaches good values to the students. The couple had their students actively in Awanas until sixth grade, and when they reached this age, they began helping other younger students.
"It was very positive, and Mark and Zachary (Flegel third child) were involved in Awana when they were in college. They helped in the Awana groups in the towns they were going to college in."
When Mark attended college in Wyoming, the church close to the school campus was active in Awana. He met his wife, Leah, while attending college, and they both helped in Awana. Janice and Wade have continued to work with Awana, even after their children began families of their own.
The organization believes that the sweet spot of discipleship happens at the intersection of highly relational and highly scriptural. Awana calls this "The Great Connection," and this disciple-making approach is at the core of every Awana program.
Calvary Chapel is located at 807 E. First Street. Their number is 541-416-9009. Ken Curvin is the Commander for the Prineville Awana.
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