Young leaders in training give hope for future

Young leaders in training give hope for future

There’s nothing more encouraging than to hear, or read about, young people demonstrating success in academics, sports, community service, art, music, technology, achieving personal goals and leadership.
I applaud The Panolian for every week highlighting young people who are doing just that right here in our community and making a difference all over the world.  That gives us hope for our future.
DW and I have been privileged to participate in a program designed to help develop youth into Christian leaders for over 10 years now.  The Lads to Leaders (LTL) program started with eight young men and their Bible school teacher in Georgia working on skills that would help them grow in their service to God and to take them into church leadership roles as they matured.
Now almost 50 years later over 250,000 students have participated in the Lads to Leaders, with 100,000 plus awards being given annually. What potential!
Our congregation, the Batesville church of Christ, is one of hundreds of churches of Christ nationwide that prepare and take students to an annual LTL convention held on Easter weekend.
Our group started at the Nashville site. Now we participate in events at the newer Memphis location held in the Cook Convention Center with over 2,000 young people enrolled.  Other LTL sites are Dallas, Orlando, Atlanta, Louisville, one in California, in the Philippines and another one soon to open in the Bahamas.
LTL is a year-round program.  Through the year students can earn recognition for memorizing Bible verses and the books of the Bible (and what each is about); participate in Bible studies, scripture reading, song leading, speech and puppet theater.
And, they earn good Samaritan points for service projects throughout the year.  Just last week our youth helped in serving the meal for the Cancer Survivor dinner, for example. All coordinated by local adult leaders.
The “Keepers” program for girls and the “Providers” program for the boys teach basic skills for family living such as nutrition, sewing, budgeting, handyman skills, and car repair. Participants are awarded a certificate for completion and honored on the first night of the convention.

Other categories include art, photography, posters, bulletin boards, scrapbooks, journalism, and mass media, including video, story line, and broadcasting. These entries are submitted prior to the convention and winners are also announced during the first night’s awards ceremony. That’s always fun and exciting for all of us.

Students can also choose to participate in on-site events to show their developing skills and talents.  There are individual events: scripture reading (non-competitive only) and competitive song leading, and speech (writing and presentation); and team events: debate, puppet theater, and Bible Bowl.  Adult volunteers from our congregation assist students throughout the year as coaches and mentors.  Many hours are spent in preparation and practice for all of these events.  The skills our LTL participants are honing will also prove to build self-confidence, improve public speaking skills, and make them better team members.

The convention is busy and fun but requires some serious logistics.  Adult leaders also serve as judges in the competitive events (though you don’ judge any of your own youth group).  Parents and grandparents come to support the children, chaperone, and also serve as judges. Volunteers staff and stock our hospitality room that keeps us well fed and on time.

A fast-paced schedule keeps us going all day from one event to another.  One night we order pizza for the group and usually there’s a little time to enjoy the local sites and food the next day.  The final awards ceremony usually goes late and Sunday morning worship is early so we’re a tired group when we get back home.  Tired but thankful and hopeful for our future.

We’re so proud of our kids and the efforts and sacrifices they make all year to participate in this exceptional leadership program.  Next year’s LTL theme and verse have been announced and soon we’ll begin our preparation for 2018.

So, here’s a shout out to our 2017 LTL participants: Kadyn, Kasen, Kylie, Rhyan, Andrea, Ruff, Marlee, Hayes, Holt, Meri Harbor, Erin, Owens, Addison, Marlie, A J, Ava Quay, Caleb, Lofton, Cole, Jasper, Jadyn, Clay, Aidan, Kaylee, Millie and Sophie.  Lead on!

Recipe of the Week

Hawaiian Quick Bread
Breads, muffins, bagels, granola bars, fruit and juice fuel us up for a busy day at LTL.

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup whole wheat flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
3 eggs, beaten
1½ cups Canola oil
2 cups mashed ripe bananas
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
¼ cup shredded coconut, optional
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients.  Stir in nuts.  Combine remaining ingredients in another bowl.  Add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.  Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until done.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Remove and cool on wire racks. Freezes well.

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