Awana co-founder Art Rorheim dies at 99

by Diana Chandler, posted Monday, January 08, 2018 (2 years ago)

OREGON, Ill. (BP) -- Children's ministry pioneer and Awana co-founder Arthur Reynold Rorheim died Jan. 5 in Oregon, Ill., at age 99.

Rorheim co-founded the Awana Youth Association, originally an acronym for Approved Workers Are Not Ashamed, in 1950 while youth director of North Side Gospel Center near Chicago. Lance "Doc" Latham, his pastor at the time, was co-founder.

Rorheim ministered with Awana for more than 60 years, continuing well into his 90s, Awana said in a press release. He spearheaded Awana's international expansion in 1972, spreading from Bolivia to include 119 countries and 4 million children by 2017. Rorheim retired as Awana executive director in 1990 and served as president until 1999.

Awana CEO Valeria Bell said Rorheim's legacy will have a lasting impact.

"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. "To that end, he was relentlessly focused on serving his Savior all the days of his life. His heart and passion for Jesus inspired millions. Awana, and the entire Christian community, will dearly miss this extraordinary man."

Awana is popular among Southern Baptists along with children's ministry programs from LifeWay Christian Resources and the Woman's Missionary Union. In the U.S. alone, Awana reached 690,495 children at 10,623 churches in 2016, according to its 2016 annual report.

Rorheim was born May 7, 1918 to Norwegian immigrants. Survivors include his son Ken, daughter-in-law Katie Rorheim and daughter Kathlyn Brock. He was preceded in death by his wife Winnie; brothers Roy and Leif Oliver, and son-in-law Dennis Brock.

A memorial service for Rorheim will be held 11 a.m. Jan. 27 at Quentin Road Bible Baptist Church, 60 Quentin Road, in Lake Zurich, Ill. His life and ministry are memorialized at

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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