Awana Announces New CEO and President/COO


David Bunker

Board of Directors chooses Valerie Bell as CEO and Matt Markins as President/COO

STREAMWOOD, IL, June 30, 2016 Awana today announced the completion of their President and CEO transition with the selection of Valerie Bell as CEO and Matt Markins as President/COO.

Earlier this year, on March 9, Valerie was named interim President and CEO while the board worked towards a permanent decision. Board member Shawn Thornton said today, “During this time of transition it became quite apparent that we needed to select from within. The more we began to pray, research and study, we became certain that the best option was to look inside the ministry. Following God’s prompting, we have felt unanimously led in this direction. The leadership combination of Valerie and Matt is a wise and dynamic move for the ministry.”

As CEO, Valerie Bell will steward the high-level direction of the ministry while meeting with ministry advocates, church leaders, donors and ministry partners. Additionally, she will champion the ministry of Awana for the children of the world through her writing and speaking. Valerie brings to Awana an extensive background in leadership. For years she was on the leadership team and producer of The Chapel of the Air radio ministry and the 50 Day Spiritual Adventure. She served on the MOPS International board for seven years, including several years as chairperson. She is a lifelong advocate for children and families and has authored books on those topics including Nobody’s Children: Getting Out of Your Kids’ Faces and Into Their Hearts and Faith Shaped Kids.

As President/COO, Matt Markins will lead the senior leadership team to achieve the organization’s strategic goals by leading the day to day operations of the Awana global ministry. He has served Awana for three and a half years as the Vice President of Ministry Resources. Matt’s background in non-profit leadership has been primarily spent in the children’s ministry and mission arenas as a publisher and conference planner.  Prior to his years on the Awana Global Leadership team, Matt was in leadership with Randall House Publishers where he co-founded the D6 Conference (a ministry that focuses on helping churches equip and inspire parents to join together in reaching kids with the gospel and engaging them in ongoing discipleship). Matt has coauthored two books, his most recent being Leading KidMin: How to Drive Real Change in Children’s Ministry which releases August 2016. 

Board Chairman David Branton says, “Valerie and Matt bring complementary and unique gifts to the Awana ministry. Both are servant leaders as well as high-level strategic thinkers. I believe that with Valerie’s God-given ability to connect with church leaders and donors, combined with Matt’s ability to lead from within and drive ministry forward, we have a solid team to move Awana into the future.”

When asked, “What changes and what stays the same?” board member Carolyn Meyers said, “We have an unwavering commitment to the gospel and to reaching and discipling children. Our mission devotes us to the local church, church leaders, donor partners, Awana leaders, families – all focused on reaching children. That will never change.” Meyers went on to say, “As a servant to the global church, we are inspired by the local church’s ability to creatively reach and engage children in a rapidly changing world. The ways we engage children to discover God in His Word will change over time, but our commitment to the gospel, Scripture memory, and discipling children is our bedrock.”

The Awana Board of Directors is thankful to those who prayed during this time of transition and is encouraged about the future.

For more information on Awana, visit

For more information on Valerie Bell or Matt Markins go to

Awana is the global leader in child discipleship.  As a non-profit children and youth ministry, Awana is committed to the belief that the greatest impact for the gospel starts with kids who know, love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Reaching more than 3 million kids and youth each week with the gospel, Awana equips parents, volunteers, and leaders with proven integrated programs, tools, and training. Evidenced by stories of life, family, and community transformation, God is changing the world through the ministry of Awana. As a non-profit ministry, Awana is funded by donations and revenues that enable God’s Word to reach kids and change lives globally. Today, the ministry of Awana takes place over 35,000 churches and more than 115 countries worldwide. To learn more about Awana for your home, church or community outreach or to support reaching kids with the gospel globally, visit us at To watch the compelling documentary of God at work reaching kids with the gospel through trained leaders around the world, visit