This weekend Lebanon played host to the 31st annual Tennessee State Youth Conference sponsored by the Churches of Christ steering committee.
Approximately 64 churches joined in the conference, including Bellwood, College Hills, Curd Road, Market Street and Peyton Road churches from Wilson County, with numbers reaching close to 1,300 youth and adults attending.
"Probably 75 percent attendees are kids," said Donald R. Hatcher, chairman of housing. "They have come as far as Knoxville, east; Chattanooga, south; Memphis, west; and as far north as Gallatin."
Each year the group hopes to bring the opportunities for spiritual growth by setting these goals: Motivating them to serve god; guiding them in the direction of God by providing mature Christian teachers; installing in them the desire to have Christian companions and become acquainted with Christians from other geographical areas who share spiritual interests; giving them the privilege of self-expression and the opportunity to exhibit their God-given talents through competition and sharing the ideas founded on the word of God.
"Our kids have so many things that affect them in other ways. We try to have something that they can meet other kids from all over the state and also have the opportunity to attend classes to enrich them in Christian growth. This the first year we have had it. Last year it was in Chattanooga. It moves around each year, so we can try to help people with the burden of getting it together.
"Each conference tries to be better than the last," said Hatcher. "We have a little cheat note, because each conference critiques their own and then passes it on to the next conference. So, therefore it gives you the opportunity to look at the mistakes that might have been made and gives you a chance to improve.
"In the beginning one of the goals, we felt like the overall participation should be around 1,300 people and we reached that. And we feel like the kids in the sessions seemed so cooperative. I believe that we have accomplish our goal."
Youth attended classrooms sessions all morning on Saturday, which also included a Bible Bowl and a teen summit. The afternoon brought a basketball tournament at Southside Elementary and a pageant at The Mill to crown Mr. and Miss Tennessee State Congeniality and Mr. and Miss Tennessee State Youth Conference.
"I enjoyed the teen summit, hands down," said Marcus Kirkendoll, of Bellwood. "The questions and the overall atmosphere. We got to tackle some of the issues that us teens are facing and it wasn't all about what the world is facing. We dealt with teen pregnancies and drug abuse.
"This is my second time attending the conference, and I believe I will take away more knowledge about God and meeting new friends."
Miracle Frierson and Myisha Duke, both of Columbia, both excitedly admitted that the play was their favorite activity over the weekend, but the message about God was the real activity they would take with them.
"Basically, I learn to live a Christian life and teach others to do the same," said Frierson.
Duke added, "I learned to better ourselves and to get others into church."
And the adults, they would have to agree.
"I have enjoyed the whole conference. I love it all of it," said Carolyn Meek, director of the pageant. "We build on the things that we have accomplish each year and make it better."
The youth conference was the vision of the late Alvin Adkisson and Thomas Gill Sr. and adopts the theme each year from the National Conference.
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