Founder of Awana Dies at Age 99

January 08, 2018Jan 08, 2018

Art Rorheim, the founder of the worldwide Awana after-school program, died on Friday, January 5. Rorheim's organization, according to the website, "is a global nonprofit ministry committed to the belief that the greatest impact for Christ starts with kids who know, love, and serve Him."


According to Christian Headlines, Rorheim was known as a very joyful man who spent a significant amount of his life involved in the Awana program. 

He was a Chicago native who took ownership of his faith when he was 10 years old after his brother tragically died from spinal meningitis. From the time he was young, his life desire was to evangelize young people and equip them with the knowledge to become leaders in the faith. After becoming an energetic Christian himself, he wanted nothing more than to spread Christ to others. 

And so, according to Christian Headlines, Rorheim founded a youth children's ministry for churches in 1950, Awana. Before this program, there were apparently very few ministries that existed for children and teens outside of Sunday school. 

According to CBN News, Rorheim worked until he was old in age, claiming that the word "retirement" is found nowhere in the Bible. As a result of his hard work, his small ministry bloomed into something that provided religious education for four million children in 100 different countries worldwide. 

Throughout his life, claims CBN News, he worked tirelessly to proclaim the gospel.

"Art Rorheim was a man whose influence for the kingdom of God will have a lasting impact for generations to come," said Valerie Bell, Awana CEO in a press release, according to CBN News.

"Throughout his life, he tirelessly proclaimed the gospel and dedicated his life to equipping Christian leaders to share this message with millions of children and moms and dads all over the world," Bell said.

According to CBN News, Rorheim was born on May 7, 1918, to Norwegian immigrants who eventually settled in Chicago. After serving as a volunteer, he eventually went into fulltime ministry in 1943 as the youth director of North Side Gospel Center. During this time, most churches didn't have a mid-week program for children, as they do today, which inspired Rorheim to create something new. And so, in 1950, he made one of his own, and it soon flourished. 

Scripture memorization has long been one of the trademarks of Awana. On one occasion, he even required his children and grandchildren to recite Psalm 1 before attending a family reunion. His friends and co-workers, who knew him well, praise him for his humor and tremendous joy. They also say that he deeply loved his family and children. 

"He was so much fun, and he saw life as fun," said Jeff Schacherer, who was a friend and co-worker, in a press release, according to CBN News.

"He loved to play jokes on people. He had a passion for life and he felt a need to share it with others. He had tremendous energy because he had a passion for helping others connect with God," he continued.

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