Co- founded Awana min­istry

Chicago Sun-Times - - REMEMBERIN­G/CITYBEAT - BY MAU­REEN O’DON­NELL Staff Re­porter Email: mod­on­nell@sun­ Twit­ter: @sun­time­so­bits

He wasn’t as well- known as evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian lead­ers like Billy Gra­ham or Bill Hy­bels or Rick War­ren. But Art Rorheim, who at­tended Fore­man High School on the North­west Side, co- founded the youth min­istry Awana in Portage Park and saw it grow into a global in­flu­ence.

Mr. Rorheim, 99, died Fri­day in Ore­gon, Illi­nois, near Rock­ford, where he was a long­time res­i­dent.

He started Awana at the North Side Gospel Cen­ter at 3859 N. Cen­tral in 1950. To­day, the or­ga­ni­za­tion es­ti­mates that 3.7 mil­lion kids in more than 100 coun­tries, from kin­der­garten through high- school age, par­tic­i­pate ev­ery week in Awana’s Bible lessons, Scrip­ture mem­o­riza­tion and ath­letic games. It’s in use in 30 lan­guages by more than 100 re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tions.

Three Belushi brothers— John, Jim and Billy — once com­peted in Awana games at Wheaton Evan­gel­i­cal Free Church in the 1960s, ac­cord­ing to Do­minic Cilla, 94, who su­per­vised their church ac­tiv­i­ties.

“It all started here be­cause he was try­ing to reach kids,” said Bob An­der­son, a pas­tor at North Side Gospel Cen­ter, where a mini- mu­seum fea­tures Mr. Rorheim’s Bible. “If you’re an Awana geek, it’s kind of cool.”

Hy­bels, the found­ing pas­tor of Wil­low Creek Com­mu­nity Church, “re­ceived Christ as his Sav­ior at an Awana summer camp run by Art,” ac­cord­ing to an Awana his­tory that quotes Hy­bels as say­ing, “I know that I would never be where I am to­day if it hadn’t been for Art chal­leng­ing me so many years ago.”

“Art was a man with­out a hint of hypocrisy,” said Er­winW. Lutzer, pas­tor emer­i­tus of The Moody Church in Chicago. “He loved to tell peo­ple that Je­sus of­fers the free gift of sal­va­tion to all who re­ceive it. He was friendly, ap­proach­able and car­ing. Best of all, he left be­hind a legacy of faith­ful­ness to his fam­ily and the min­istry of Awana that will carry on long after his death.”

Young Art grew up in Chicago, a child of Nor­we­gian im­mi­grants Ras­mus Ole Rorheim and Al­ida Rorheim, he said in in­ter­views with Wheaton Col­lege. He turned to Christ when his brother Roy died of menin­gi­tis in 1928, ac­cord­ing to his Awana bi­og­ra­phy.

In 1943, he be­came the youth di­rec­tor of North Side Gospel Cen­ter, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry. He and Pas­tor Lance Latham co- founded Awana, de­riv­ing the name from a ver­sion of the Bible verse 2 Ti­mothy 2: 15: “Ap­proved work­men are not ashamed.” The duo helped pop­u­lar­ize mid­week Bible pro­grams for young peo­ple.

Mr. Rorheim was ac­tive with Awana for al­most 70 years, vis­it­ing dozens of coun­tries to spread the min­istry’s mes­sage. He’d joke that “I’ve never found the word ‘ re­tire­ment’ in the Bible.”

His work “re­shaped evan­gel­i­cal church life in Amer­ica by in­tro­duc­ing more rig­or­ous and Scrip­ture- cen­tered kids’ min­istry and pop­u­lar­iz­ing church programmin­g on week­nights,” ac­cord­ing to Chris­tian­ity To­day.

Tony Evans, the in­flu­en­tial pas­tor of Oak Cliff Bible Fel­low­ship in Dal­las, once praised Mr. Rorheim and his mem­oir “Mr. Anawa,” say­ing, “For many years, mil­lions of boys and girls and par­ents world­wide have been reached with the mes­sage of the Gospel be­cause of Awana.”

“He was a great, great or­ga­nizer and fund- raiser,” Cilla said. “He knew how to re­cruit peo­ple with en­thu­si­asm so they would carry on.”

Mr. Rorheim ex­plained his phi­los­o­phy in his Awana bi­og­ra­phy: “If you’re to win kids to the Lord, they’ve got to have fun! We de­vel­oped Awana to draw kids from the com­mu­nity through our church doors by pro­vid­ing games, prizes, awards, spe­cial events, ex­cite­ment and a sense of be­long­ing.”

He also helped found a prison min­istry, Awana Life­line, at the state pen­i­ten­tiary in An­gola, Louisiana.

His wife Win­nie died in 2015. He is sur­vived by daugh­ter Kath­lyn Brock, son Ken, four grand­chil­dren, 10 great- grand­chil­dren and three great- great- grand­chil­dren. A me­mo­rial ser­vice is planned for 11 a. m. Jan. 27 at Quentin Road Bible Bap­tist Church in Lake Zurich.


Art Rorheim started Awana at the North Side Gospel Cen­ter at 3859 N. Cen­tral in 1950.


A young John Belushi ( top row, fourth boy from­left, with crossed arms) par­tic­i­pates in Awana games at a Wheaton church in 1963. |

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.