Teen Talent 2011 is a “Grand-Slam”
Cleveland, Tennessee—“The Teen Talent program is more than a competitive event; it is a ministry of love and guidance for Church of God students and a huge investment back into local church congregations and ministries. Few experiences, if any, provide more nail-biting, laughter, butterflies-in-the-stomach, excitement, jitters, ministry fruit and creativity than Church of God Teen Talent!” -–Tom Madden, Church of God International Director of Youth and Discipleship.
Traditionally, Teen Talent, a competition for teens ages 13-19 sponsored by Church of God Youth and Discipleship, was closely connected to the biennial Church of God General Assembly. When the Youth and Discipleship Department was asked by church leadership to move and conduct it at a new venue, with the hope and intention of being effective stewards of limited resources, many wondered just what might happen. Questions arose such as, “Where would Teen Talent be hosted? Would the participation level, enthusiasm, and representation be negatively impacted? How would this new model look?”
On August 2-6, 2011, national Teen Talent was conducted on the Lee University campus in Cleveland, Tennessee. Approximately 3,500-4,000 participants, chaperones, parents, and friends were part of the Teen Talent 2011 experience, with thousands staying and dining in on-campus facilities, as well as dozens of hotels around the city. In addition to performances during the day, evening activities included a block party, rally and “wipe-out” competition.
Teen Talent was staged in the following divisions: Art, Bible, Creative Writing, Drama, Music, and Multi-Media. Assistant Director of Youth and Discipleship Gary Lewis pointed out, “The heart and goal behind Teen Talent is to discover, dedicate and develop talents for the glory of God.” This year marked the 50th anniversary of Teen Talent in the Church of God which has helped produce many gifted musicians, pastors, writers and leaders throughout the church world.
“Some 750 individual and group entries advanced to Nationals,” Madden stated. “Nearly 2,000 individual students sang, played, acted, taught, quizzed, produced, wrote, or created amazing art! Thirty-one U.S. State/Regions and International countries were represented, including Canada (Eastern and Quebec), Jamaica, England/Wales (UK), Bahamas, Trinidad, Romanian Territory (Nashville), Puerto Rico and Haitian Churches from Florida.
Categories of competition were held at the North Cleveland Church of God and multiple locations across the Lee University campus. The climactic awards festival took place outdoors on the veranda of the new Science and Math Complex on Saturday evening, August 6 where approximately 4,000 cheered and celebrated. More than 1,000 hits per day were noted on the “internet live stream” of the competition sessions.
“This year I witnessed a new characteristic beyond the usual level of excitement that Teen Talent brings: unity,” stated Dusty Wilson of Florida. “The community that was created this year was an atmosphere of fun, excitement, and social networking.”
J Patrick Wright of Ohio stated, “The lnternational Youth and Discipleship team did a phenomenal job again this year with Teen Talent. Lee University was a great host. Kudos to both. The students had a blast!!”
Greg Baird from North Georgia said, “A highlight was the Friday night, ‘Meet the Artists’ in the Art Division where each artist/writer/multi-media participant was given an opportunity to have audience with the public. It was a first-class, one-of-a-kind event which validated the talent and creativity of the participants. Excellent!”
“We were very pleased to host Teen Talent in Cleveland on the campus of Lee University,” Madden stated. “President Conn, Dr. Walt Mauldin, and the entire Lee University staff showed both servant’s hearts and professionalism with their consistent cooperation, support, and assistance as Church of God Youth and Discipleship successfully kept the 50 year Teen Talent tradition as rich and rewarding as ever.”
Madden compared Teen Talent with Smoky Mountain Winterfest, another Youth and Discipleship event when he said, “Similarly, back in the year 2000, the decision was made to move Smoky Mountain Winterfest from Gatlinburg, Tennessee to the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville. Much like the change of venue for Teen Talent this year, that was an uncertain, unpredictable, and perhaps even risky move. But now that those adaptations have occurred, the strength, legacy, and obvious results of those decisions demonstrate both the leading of the Holy Spirit and the blessings of the Lord.”