Last year I had the privilege of working on the AWANA Youth Ministry Advocates curriculum. But to be honest, I had never even heard of AWANA until I was contacted by my former Biola professor, Dr. Sean McDowell, to help work on the project. (I attended a Royal Rangers/Girls Ministries church.) So I thought I would ask him to explain what AWANA and this new Advocates curriculum are all about!
Who is AWANA and how did you come to partner with them?
AWANA is an international ministry that focuses on discipling children and teens. Most people recognize AWANA from their children’s Bible memory programs (which I did as a kid). But AWANA has a very significant youth ministry as well. The leadership first reached out to me to gauge my interest in helping with the Advocate series. Once I got to know them personally, and understood their vision and commitment to creating a first-class apologetics curriculum for students, I was sold!
What is the Advocates curriculum and what was your role in its creation?
The Advocates study is the second year of a comprehensive 4-year Bible curriculum for students. My friend Josh Griffin, the co-founder of Download Youth Ministry, helped develop the study for the first year: Journey: Disciples.
For Advocates, my role was to help build the content of the curriculum, plan out each individual lesson, and then be the voice for the weekly videos. But I was only part of the team! There were other curriculum designers, video editors, graphic artists, and more. The amount of resources and effort that went into this curriculum is quite remarkable (shout out to Jeremy, Steve, Zac, Betsy, Missy, Cassie, and Kayla)!
Advocates is the first comprehensive, top-quality, systematic, yearlong apologetics/worldview study designed for students in the church. There are other great apologetics resources out there, but this is the first of its kind in both quality and scope.
Why is this new curriculum so important nowadays?
Studies continually reveal that young people today are less biblically literate than previous generations. And other worldviews (such as naturalism and pantheism, which we talk about in the study) are seeping into the church. Kids are facing challenges to their faith—both morally and intellectually—at an earlier rate than previous generations. And if they are going to stand strong, they need a good foundation.
What are some of the topics it covers?
We built the curriculum to develop sequentially by tackling topics like truth, worldviews, science and faith, evidence for the historical Jesus, and responses to tough questions like evil and hell.
But we added an entire section that is my favorite—Signposts to God. Unfortunately, few apologetics curricula include these kinds of topics. But I think they’re some of the most powerful! We discuss powerful “signs” in the world that point towards purpose and design. For instance, we contend that objective beauty points toward a Divine Artist, that our storytelling nature points to a Divine Author, and that our free will (agency) points towards a Divine Agent. This section is fresh, unique, and very compelling. And it will bring a healthy balance to apologetics that is often missing.
A big thanks to Dr. Sean McDowell for this interview. I hope you and your church will check out the AWANA Youth Ministry Advocates curriculum, which is available to order now!
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.