AIM and Awana: Same Direction, Different Paths

In October, 22 year old Emily Tuttle of Duluth, Ga. was in training in the rural northern part of her home state for the World Race.  She, along with over a hundred other young-adults, begins her trip in January in Haiti, then will minister in South America, Southeast Asia and conclude in East Africa.
But Tuttle already grew up with the world at her doorstep; her family lived in a neighborhood populated primarily by recent immigrants.  Whereas her classmates from her Christian school were mostly white, her friends and neighbors were diverse not only in culture and ethnicity but in beliefs.
“Our family was very loving to everyone because they were just our friends,” said Tuttle, and Awana, the Illinois-based evangelism and discipleship ministry for children and youth, was a way for the family to connect the neighborhood kids to church.
“They ended up in our church Christmas plays…they would go to church with us,” she described.  “Their parents were fine with it because it wasn’t Sunday morning [worship service], we weren’t evangelizing them.  They were having game time and snack time, and they thought it was like a club.”
“My best friend was Muslim and we could bring her to church once a week with us,” Tuttle added.  “Her parents weren’t threatened by it.”  With her friends, she’d memorize Bible verses and participate in discussions led by Awana small group leaders.
With the help of these leaders, 24 year old Nebraskan Don Hamilton, who is also going on the World Race in January, understood the meaning behind the verses he had memorized.  He admits he can’t recite them by chapter and verse anymore since he participated in Awana for three years, beginning when he was 9 year old.
“The actual content of the Bible has stuck with me,” he pointed out.  “In a situation when I’m sharing my faith – that has helped a great deal.  I don’t know that [Awana] instilled [in] me a desire to missions work but I’m certain it has prepared me.”
For many children, Awana is, as Hamilton described it, an introduction to Christian theology and personal development.  Awana and AIM, a Georgia-based interdenominational organization, share the same goal – discipleship – and employ complementary ways to get there.  For the former, it’s evangelism and Bible study; for the latter, it’s short-term missions.