I am a convert to Catholicism from evangelical Protestantism, and I taught a Wednesday night children’s club called Pioneer Club for ten years. My children attended Wed. night club until they were in middle school.
We were not involved with AWANA for several reasons.
Unless is has changed, AWANA is like watching a game show. The meetings open with pledges, followed by competitive active games. This is absolutely great for children who like competitive games. A lot of homeschooled kids benefit greatly from this, because they get little opportunity to interact with other children in competition, and they often have a difficult time dealing with “losing.” So AWANA game time is a good teaching time for them. If you have kids who like to play hard and play for the win, and who need to learn to lose graciously, I recommend AWANA.
But the LAST thing that my daughters needed was more competition! They were both involved in competitive figure skating, and spent two or more hours a day on the ice practicing and trying to get “good enough” or “better” than other kids. From the rink, they went to a highly-competitive college prep school where tracking was the rule! My older daughter was involved in theater, which meant auditions for plays (and not getting the parts most of the time!)
So I and they felt that we really didn’t need any more competition in our family!
After the game time, the kids do table time, which consisted mainly of everyone reciting the Bible verses that they had memorized, and getting points for it. Again, it was a game, a competition. I was a substitute teacher at AWANAs once, and after he receited his verses, I asked a little boy what they meant. He shrugged his shoulders and said ,“I don’t know.”
This is another reason why we wouldn’t get involved in AWANA–no application. I could not see the point of learning Bible verses without learning what they meant. Perhaps it’s different at other churches, but at the churches that my children tried, there was NO TIME for teaching. And so, IMO, sending Catholic kids to AWANA is probably not going to hurt them, and may help them IF while they memorize their Bible verses, their PARENTS are teaching them what the Church teaches about those verses.
However, there is a “general” gathering time, and during this time, children are encouraged to “accept Jesus as their personal Savior.” Again, all of this might have changed, and perhaps there is more teaching time. But I’m guessing that this “evangelism” time is still done, and THIS would be a good reason for Catholics to avoid AWANA.
One more thing–when my daughters attended, the pledges to the flag were always done. That’s great, except that the pledge to the AWANA flag, at least back then (about 15 years ago) was done with an outstretched arm. My daughters refused to do this, and afterwards, my younger daughter asked me, “Mom, was that pledge OK?” I was proud of them, and I told them that we should never do or say a pledge that we don’t fully mean. Personally, I had shivers watching those little blonde children holding their arms out like Nazis!
I agree-start your own “Catholic club.” Children do not need anything fancy. Just do an activity–it can be utterly simple, like making paper airplanes and having a contest to see which one stays aloft the longest. And do a “teaching time.” This, too, can and should be very simple–a Bible story followed by an application (e.g., Jesus heals a sick person–we should care for the sick by praying for them–let’s pray right now for someone we know who is sick–make a list on the white board and everyone pray a Hail Mary for them).
And of course, a TREAT!
What kids need is to know that someone cares for them and loves them–even the most inept club leader can have a huge impact for the good in a child’s life! Go for it!