By Shannon Baker
UPPER MARLBORO, Md.—It’s not unusual for Kettering Baptist Church to baptize people in their church. In fact, every fourth Sunday in the Upper Marlboro church is dedicated to baptism.
But Colin Pugh, pastor of youth at Kettering, had another idea. He noted several children who had recently received Christ as their Savior and Lord had attended the church’s weekly Awana program.
With fully integrated evangelism and long-term discipleship programs for children ages 2 to 18, Awana is a global, nonprofit ministry that actively involves parents and church leaders. Each week, more than 2 million children and youth, 330,000 volunteers and 260 field staff take part in Awana in 30,000 churches around the world.
At Kettering, children attend the Awana program for two hours every Wednesday from August to June “to learn about the Word of God and grow in the Word of God,” shared Pugh, who directs the programming.
He explained Awana is broken down to different age-scripted clubs from pre-kindergarten students to high school students. Presently, Kettering has about 43 kids, of the 100 registered, who come from the community.
“This year, we had a lot who gave their lives to Christ so I talked to my pastor [to suggest holding the baptism service on the Wednesday] to celebrate everybody in Awana and to celebrate those kids who gave their lives to Christ,” Pugh said. “The kids were definitely excited, and their parents and the whole church backed it.”
Pugh said he always looks for ways to celebrate the children—“whether it’s birthdays every month, good grades, the top clubber of the month”—so it seemed natural to celebrate their decisions for Christ.
This was Kettering’s first time to hold a baptism service during the Awana program.
Pugh baptized twelve children, including several siblings: Timothy (“Timmy”) Brown, Braelyn and Sebri Hooks; Madison and Mackenzie King; Dain, John and Joshua McCalla; Adriana and Michael Simmons; Max Urena; and Allison White.
Sebri, 9, said she got baptized “because she wanted to give her life to Christ and she wanted to feel better and live a better life.”
Timothy Brown shared he was very excited and very honored that his son, Timmy, accepted Christ as such an early age. Describing the Awana program, he said, “They take them through the Bible. They teach them verses to retain and then they study the Word of God in its pure form. So they develop a relationship with God at an early age, and obviously reinforcement happens at home as well.”
The Browns currently serve as missionaries for Youth with a Mission (YWAM).
“We also wanted to show the church what we are doing in Awana and that we’re not just gathering kids and hanging out. We really minister to them and speak into them,” Pugh said.
In fact, organizationally, Awana has discovered that 92 percent of its alumni still attend church weekly or more often. They are 3.6 more times likely to read their Bibles several times a week, and 70 percent of alumni said they witness to friends at least once a month.
In June, Kettering will hold its annual Awana Awards program during its closing ceremony followed by an Awana carnival, where the kids can invite family and friends to gather.