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Awana co-founder Arthur Rorheim dies

by Leigh Jones
Posted 1/08/18, 03:52 pm

Arthur Reynold Rorheim, co-founder of the international children’s ministry Awana, died Friday. He was 99. Rorheim founded Awana in 1950 while working as youth director at the North Side Gospel Center in Chicago. He wrote most of its early curriculum and training materials, basing them on the programs he created for his own church. Scripture memorization formed a large part of the ministry’s focus, and today Awana remains known for its Bible-based handbooks and memorization competitions. The ministry became a global enterprise in 1972 when Rorheim started the first Awana club in Bolivia. Today, churches in 104 countries use Awana’s teaching materials. Rorheim stepped down as Awana’s executive director in 1990 but served as president for another nine years. He regularly visited the ministry’s headquarters well into his 90s. “I’ve never found the word ‘retirement’ in the Bible,” he joked. Rorheim leaves behind two children and one daughter-in-law, four grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren. His wife Winnie died at age 97 in December 2015.

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Leigh Jones

Leigh lives in Houston with her husband and daughter. She is the news editor for The World and Everything in It and reports on education for WORLD Digital.

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  • Just Me 999
    Posted: Mon, 01/08/2018 04:37 pm

    So thankful for this man and his ministry. AWANA has been a main staple in our family for 24 years now. We truly appreciate its emphasis on Bible verse memorization. I cannot tell you how much fun we had at Summit during the early 2000s, the Texas State Championship in 2010 in which my Bible quizzing team won first place in that year's first ever Texas championship and now our last child, a precious daughter, will receive her Citation this year. Thank you Art and Lance for starting a life changing ministry! Well done faithful servants.

  • hrh
    Posted: Tue, 01/09/2018 10:35 am

    AWANA is a FABULOUS basis for children that forms a GREAT foundation of Scripture in them for life. I can personally attest to that and am thrilled my nieces and nephew are getting that foundation now. "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee." Ps. 119:11

    Scripture, not catechism, is the key. Scripture is God's Word, catechism is some man's organization of God's Word, whether the Catholic pope's or the Reformation pope's (Calvin).

    Thanks you, Mr. Rorheim, for spreading the direct memorization of God's Word worldwide.

  • SN
    Posted: Wed, 01/10/2018 10:13 am

    I heartily agree with with hrh who rightly regards the importance of Scripture memorization.  But I vigoriously disagree with him/her in dismissing the importance of such orthodox aids in learning the Bible as the Westminster Shorter Catechism, especially lumping them together with the heretical catechism of Rome.  Reformed catechism not only teach Scripture memorization; perhaps even more importantly they teach what those Scriptures mean.  A solid Reformed catechism is a body of divinity in small compass.  Mastering its questions and answers goes far in teaching students to be approved workmen that are not ashamed and who can rightly divide the word of truth and to identify errors which twist the Scriptures.  Increasing biblical illiteracy today is perhaps exceeded only by the appaling doctrinal ignorance that has come to characterize modern evangelicalism.  We should all be memorizing Scripture; and we should likewise be learning those catechisms that put into brief theological formulae what those passages mean.  The cults pay lip service to the Bible while promoting their deadly errors.  Those who know teaching of the Bible reflected in the orthodox creeds, confessinos, and catechisms of the church are better prepared to identify their dangerous departures from the truth than those who merely memorize the Word but do not also know what it teaches.