Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Reflections on Awana

In my professional life I research security threats and network vulnerabilities. I have an additional passion though, a passion for children's ministry. I have served in Awana for 8 years, the last 5 of which I have been the club Commander. In that time, this year has been the most challenging personally.

The challenge was not the kids. I love the children we serve. Some I have known since preschool or before, others are new friends, but my heart is for each one. I have often said that I can begin a club night exhausted and end the night on a high - that is a true sign one is serving where their passion is!
The challenge was not the volunteers. I am blessed to have a wonderful Awana leadership team, a team that loves the children and is passionate about teaching them. Some I have served with for all 8 years, others were new to Awana this year, but each is committed to the children we serve, and I am thankful for each and every one.

The challenge is not even busyness. My own children are growing up and expanding into more and more activities. My youngest competes with the Hays County Shooting Sports Club - she shoots a traditional longbow, as well as a 20 gauge shotgun, and is learning to shoot a compound bow and a .22 long rifle. My middle girl breeds and shows rabbits. My oldest two are about to begin high school, picking out their course tracks, all while being very active in our church youth group. But our family has always had things going on. This year seems a little "faster" but not so much as to throw off Awana.

The challenge this year has been one of vision and of focus. For years I and my team have had a primary focus on outreach, and club participation reflected that. From my first month as a Commander our vision has been to get as much of God's Word as we can, as deep as we can, into the hearts of as many children as we can (thanks to Larry Fowler for saying it so succinctly that I could adopt it as my vision). Two thirds of the children attending Awana came from outside our church, and one third or more had no church affiliation at all. God used us to reach children that would otherwise have no Biblical education at all - it was a fantastic feeling to know we were doing exactly what we were called to do, and that God was honoring that service.

Early this club year, my focus was derailed - and I didn't really recognize it until the year came to an end. As the year went on though I found it harder and harder to keep the big picture in mind, and instead found myself focusing on weekly minutiae. More to the point, I found myself leading under my own power instead of relying on God's power.

The treachery of it is, on the surface it was a successful year. I believe one of the enemy's tools is "good enough," convincing ministry leaders to settle for good instead of looking for God's best. Club attendance was strong - and those that came were absolutely learning God's Word and being trained in discipleship. I am convinced though that God had so much more planned. For 5 years, club attendance had consistently grown at a phenomenal rate. We were able to reach many kids that had no church, and in many cases that had no other exposure to Christ. That was less the case this year. I want to be clear: discipling the children of the church is a vital part of Awana, but so is sharing the Gospel with children out in the community, and the latter is the area in which I fell short in leading the team this year.

In talking with others (both pastoral staff and lay persons), every ministry leader has times when their vision is clouded and they are distracted from God's best. The lesson I take away from this reflection is, before anything else, I have to be a disciple myself. My ability to lead comes out of my commitment to follow Christ. To all the children's ministry leaders out there, always remember to guard your heart first. Your leadership will flow out of that commitment, and you will be blessed for (and by) that!

Do you have something to add? A question you'd like answered? Think I'm out of my mind? Join the conversation below, reach out by email at david (at) securityforrealpeople.com, or hit me up on Twitter at @dnlongen

Whois David?

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I have spent the better part of two decades in information technology and security, with roots in application developer support, system administration, and network security. My specialty is cyber threat intelligence - software vulnerabilities and patching, malware, social networking risks, etc. In particular, I strive to write about complex cyber topics in a way that can be understood by those outside the infosec industry.

Why do I do this? A common comment I get from friends and family is that complex security topics give them headaches. They want to know in simple terms how to stay safe in a connected world. Folks like me and my peers have chosen to make a profession out of hacking and defending. I've been doing this for the better part of two decades, and so have a high degree of knowledge in the field. Others have chosen different paths - paths where I would be lost. This is my effort to share my knowledge with those that are experts in something else.

When not in front of a digital screen, I spend my time raising five rambunctious teens and pre-teens - including two sets of twins. Our family enjoys archery, raising show and meat rabbits, and simply enjoying life in the Texas hill country.

For a decade I served as either Commander or a division leader for the Awana Club in Dripping Springs, Texas; while I have retired from that role I continue to have a passion for children's ministry. At the moment I teach 1st through 3rd grade Sunday School. Follow FBC Dripping Springs Kids to see what is going on in our children's ministries.