Saturday morning was one busy day! The annual PenDel Fine Arts competition Sectionals were held in Bethel Park, PA. It is an event held for 6th-12th graders, representing an Assembly of God Church.
For the last two years, our youngest son has competed in the Short Sermon category. Last year, he scored high enough to go on to the District Level Competition. He has wanted to be a Pastor for as long as I can remember. It’s been a blessing for him to be able to stretch his spiritual wings and write his own, original sermon.
Back in January, he began writing, critiquing, and practicing. We knew the event would be coming up. Usually, the district level is close to Easter. So, we made sure he had proper attire- dress clothes- and a nice looking folder. The rest was up to him. My mother was able to attend last year and she and my Aunt both came this year, too. It was a longer ride than before. Last year’s was at our ‘home’ church. This year’s was almost an hour away.
My husband always does the driving, God bless him. Traffic & I don’t mix. But, when we arrived at the location, we were amazed at the beauty of the church. Not only the exterior, but, the people really went all out to make the kids feel important and welcome. I loved that they even held a worship service before everyone split into groups!
The events offered were countless. Everything from photography to singing, painting, creative writing- you name it! Based off last year’s events, we expected only a few in the Short Sermon category. Singing is always the most popular. He only had two ‘competitors’ last year. They all went onto districts. However, when we got the schedule, we saw two hours worth of short sermons! Praise God and Wow! That’s a lot of kids considering each sermon is 5 minutes long!
To be fair to everyone, the junior and senior kids were divided. I like that. This year, as a 9th grader, he was bumped up to a sea of much bigger fish. Older kids means more mature sermons and knowledge. There were 12 ‘competitors’ in his 9th-12th age bracket. They were all phenomenal. His best friend entered this year for the first time. I was as proud of him as I was of my own.
Very few of the preachers showed nervousness or anxiety. Each sermon was unique and timely. Our son preached a sermon themed :’Whom the Son Has Set Free Is Free Indeed!’. Basically, it was a sermon on God’s freedom versus the world’s. Other sermons were on everything from opinions to porn addiction. Pretty deep stuff with gutsy messages.
The judges, three of them, were tough. They had no problem critiquing everything. The score to get is ‘Excellent with Invitation’ or higher. Invitation meaning to go to districts. For us, this year, it was not to be. Three of the twelve were chosen. He wasn’t one. Neither was his best friend.
Out of the 10 performers that our ‘home’ church entered in other categories, all but he and his friend made it to districts. This was a new disappointment for him. He’s always been a talented orator and never failed to get his message through. I was extremely proud at the grace he (& his friend) showed to others. There were handshakes, high five’s and ‘way-to-gos’ all around. These performers were genuinely happy for each other.
That’s rare in today’s world of participation trophies. He watched the video that I recorded of him and made mental notes of what he could’ve done better. His message was strong, that’s what the judges said. They enjoyed his style and only faulted him on eye contact. But, we will do it again next year. It was for God’s glory, not ours.
As we were leaving the building, my son said to us, ‘It’s ok if I don’t go to districts. I just hope I changed someone’s life.’ That’s really what it’s all about, right?