By Sharon Mager
CONOWINGO, Md—Conowingo Baptist Church started an AWANA program and it’s doing more than teaching the Bible to children. It’s uniting the church.
Conowingo Baptist Church Senior Pastor Josh McCord was heavily involved in an AWANA program at Madison Hills Baptist Church, San Antonia, where he served as a youth and young adult pastor before coming to Maryland. He was impressed with how the youth were getting more involved in ministry through the program.
Last year, at Conowingo Baptist Church, When McCord saw the application for a Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware Strengthening Churches grant, he prayed about what God would have the church to do.
“God laid the AWANA ministry on my heart,” he said. The church received the grant and used it to purchase materials.
McCord wanted the whole congregation involved in the AWANA ministry. He suspended the normal Wednesday night events so everyone could participate. He especially encouraged youth and young adults to lead and engage the children in ministry. In less than a year, they’ve seen outstanding results.
The Wednesday evening events begin at 5:50 with a shared meal and McCord raves about the food prepared by Church member Jim Whitaker and assisted by his wife, Sheila and church members Sam and Venus Arbucle. “It’s phenomenal. This guy could be a chef!” McCord said.
“It’s a time we get to hang out, eat delicious food and wonderful desserts Parents are now coming in for the meal.”
After dinner, they head to the sanctuary for opening ceremonies. McCord stays in the sanctuary and teaches Bible lessons, using the AWANA curriculum tailoring it for the different groups.
“We go verse-by-verse and I ask, ‘What did Jesus mean?’ ‘What does that mean for you?’ It’s a real Bible study even at the younger ages. “
In addition to teaching the Bible, McCord is getting to know the children and the children are getting to know him.
“I’m being very intentional in giving the kids an opportunity to know me as a person, not a guy in a suit on Sunday mornings.”
Along with the Bible study, McCord takes the children’s prayer requests and the kids know that he will hand-deliver them immediately after the study to a “War Room” where prayer warriors pray over the petitions.
The children also go to different areas for games and snacks. McCord said having youth and college students working with the younger children is exciting. “They are hanging out together, and the older kids are speaking into the lives of the kids. They’ve got a lot of energy.”
Church Member Ron Nelson is the AWANA commander. “The Holy Spirit—He’s there at the meetings. We see it in the kids and in the leaders,” Nelson said.
Nelson worked with the AWANA program with McCord in San Antonio at Madison Hills Church. In fact, Ron, his wife, Eva, and his fourteen-year-old daughter, Lori, came to Maryland with McCord, his wife, Amber and their then four children, 14-year-old Joanna, 11-year-old Rebecca, 10-year-old Josiah and 7-year-old Tabitha. Two-year-old Pricilla and 8-month-old Moriah came after they settled in Maryland.
God is blessing the ministry. McCord said. He believes the prayers in the “War Room” are having a huge impact.
“We have one young girl with a Roman Catholic background. Recently she stood, prayed and accepted Jesus. We’re going to meet with her parents and discuss baptism. And that’s just one example. Children are growing, getting convicted and turning to Jesus.
McCord’s initial prayers of having the youth and young adults working with the children has been answered over and above. “God, using AWANA, has definitely done a work to unite the church. We’re eating and praying together. It’s bridging the gap of the generations.
Though the AWANA program runs through the school year, McCord said the church will host children’s program through the summer to keep in touch with the children and maintain the momentum.