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Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB)

Eric Provost looks like the prototypical youth/young adult ministry guy: Bright, quick, extremely fit, eminently approachable. The Regional Director (Ontario) for AWANA International Canada exudes enthusiasm for the program.

"We have three pillars in AWANA that everything is built upon," Eric says, "reach kids, equip leaders, and change the world. I have to challenge myself and others in the organization to make sure we stay true to those principles."

Art Rorheim started AWANA (Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed) in 1950 in Chicago. "Basically he saw all these kids hanging out with nothing to do in the post war years and started playing sports with them. His goal was to get as much of the Bible in the hearts and minds of kids as possible," Eric says. The statistics for the AWANA program are impressive: World wide there are 2.2 million children per week in attendance in 109 countries. Closer to home ten thousand children in 130 churches (including 9 new churches this year) attend in Ontario. While the legacy of the organization is secure, there have been changes in recent years to reflect changes in church culture.

"It used to be that we would show up at a church and ask them to run our program," Eric says. "Now, when we show up we ask what the churches goals are, what is their vision. We try to develop true partnerships and support the church in direction they see themselves going."

A Barna group study from a few years ago revealed that 59% of Christian young people disconnect from the church either permanently or for a long period of time after the age of 15. Eric’s own experience is similar. He started going to church in the seventh grade with his family, and had a lot of church members sow into his life. Eventually, though, he drifted away for several years.

"Six months into my marriage, my wife and I looked at each other and knew something was missing. I was 24, and we began to go attend West London Alliance Church. From there God really began to work in my life." Eric says that without the input of those believers in his life early on he has no idea where he would have ended up.

"A Barna group study showed that a child who goes through 4+ years of AWANA has a 92% chance of staying in church the rest of their lives. We have phenomenal curriculum, we just want to keep things simple and resource the local church."