FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Nearly 60 years ago, a senior pastor and a youth director joined forces in a Chicago church and formed a club to teach children the word of God.

More than 1 million youth and children later, the club known as Awana meets on Fort Bragg for children ages 2 through 8th grade.

The Awana named is derived from the first letters of "Approved workmen are not ashamed," said Mary Spond, commander of Fort Bragg's Awana club and wife of a Special Forces chaplain. The Biblical reference comes from 2 Timothy 2:15.

Fort Bragg's Awana club began meeting last September, she said. Meetings were originally held at the Watters Center, but were moved to the Tolson Youth Activities Center because of the sheer number of members.

According to Spond, as many as 145 children typically attend Awana's Sunday meetings, which are held during the school year. Children work on everything from raising funds to send to international Awana clubs to shipping ornaments at Christmas time. The mission of the club is to teach God's word to kids and help them grow into outstanding men and women.

"There's nothing greater to prepare us for adulthood and prepare us to function in life than memorizing God's words," Spond said. "The morals and the truth that is in the Bible is the best guide to growing up young men and women of value."

Awana principles and practices are very similar to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, she added. Children, who are grouped by grade level, work from a book towards earning awards that they get to wear on their vest. Community service is advocated.

Even before Awana became active on Fort Bragg, Katie Spond attended meetings for seven years. Her mother, Mary, had previously worked with Awana clubs in other places before the Family's move to Fort Bragg.

The 12-year-old said the workbooks she has received makes learning the Bible fun. Spond said she particularly enjoyed learning John 3:16.

"It's really about Jesus' crucifixion and how He came to Earth; that He came to Earth to save us. I really like that," she said.

Another benefit of being an Awana member is being able to socialize with friends and earning awards, Spond said.
"As Protestant Christians, the Awana Club is one of the best spiritual formation programs for children," said Jeff Nevin, director of religious education, garrison chaplain's office. "The club allows children to come to faith in Jesus Christ and provides an opportunity for children to grow in their faith."

Nevin seems to like the club so much that he has enrolled his four sons, ages 2 to 10, as members.

"Not only is the program well known but the program allows children a great opportunity for spiritual formation in a fun, competitive and rewarding environment," Nevin said.

Awana meetings, according to its website, take place in more than 18,000 churches in the U.S. and abroad. Among alumni who have participated in its programs for at least six years, more than 92 percent still attend church at least weekly as adults.

For more information about Awana, contact Nevin at 396-5350 or email him at