'Idol' concert among SBC family events

by Michael Ray Smith, posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 (9 years ago)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--"American Idol" season six finalist Phil Stacey presented a concert to students and their families as one of the many family activities during the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Ky., June 23-34.

Stacey, a preacher's kid, was ministering at a church in Jacksonville, Fla., and in the U.S. Navy when he auditioned for American Idol. He now resides in Cleveland, Tenn.

He directed many of his comments to the sons and daughters of ministers as he sang, then moved the crowd by personally autographing a CD for each person in attendance that he and his wife Kendra, also a preacher's kid, made in their home studio.

"I know the pressures on preachers' kids," Stacey said. "I hope I planted a seed."

Telling the audience, "The story of victory begins with a story of sorrow," Stacey also acknowledged that doubts are part of the journey of faith. But what is most important is "Who you know," Stacey said in reference to God.

Kevin Spratt, coordinator of Centrifuge -- or "Fuge," for students in grades seven and above during the SBC meeting in the Kentucky Exposition Center -– said SBC planners aimed to provide options for all ages so that families could participate in some events together.

More than 600 were enrolled in preschool care, in the "Pirates of the Cranium" children's program and in Fuge.

Accompanied by his father, Miller Shamburger of St. Amant, Ohio, Tim Shamburger attended Stacey's concert with his wife Debbie and teenage son Josh.

Tim Shamburger credited Stacey with using his celebrity to highlight a message of faith and encouragement, although Josh, 14, admitted he already has other favorites in Christian music.

For Spratt, the metaphor of sowing a seed may be the best way to evaluate the goal of the various youth events.

"We wanted to throw a great party," Spratt said, adding that those at Stacey's concert "saw an example in Phil Stacey ... that you can be normal and be a preacher's kid."

The Pirates of the Cranium program for children ages 4-12, meanwhile, had children jumping, laughing, playing and learning Bible lessons.

Worship leader Stephen Leckenby adjusted a red bandana around his head, squinted his eyes once, and exploded into an anthem about the heroes of the faith.

Nearly 400 children joined in an "Alleluia" chorus, mimicking the gestures of student helpers Nikki Stark of Midland, Mich., and sisters Amanda and Ashley Brill of Hazelton, Ind. Leah Gaddis, 8, of Corbin, Ky., clad in a pink T-shirt, was one of the children who tried to keep up with leaders in a high-energy group exercise while her ponytail bobbed in time to the music.

Carla Greenway, who supervised the care of nearly 60 preschool children during each of the SBC annual meeting sessions, stopped cold when volunteer Lauren Foster of Louisville handed her a child care registration card that said 3-year-old Tikki would need to be balanced on a knee while the caregiver sang the national anthem and the child's formula should be shaken until a light foam formed.

"I took a full minute and finally said, 'Are you kidding?'" Greenway said, realizing that the card was a joke. "We both laughed."

From preschoolers to high schoolers, those involved in the various ministries told stories of how God worked -- even in the in midst of some days that lasted up to 12 hours.

"We want to see students connect with God and throw out the distractions of TV, movies and the Internet," said Scott "Brother" Yancey, of Nashville, who joined his wife Elizabeth in working with Fuge's high school students. "We want them to be able to have an authentic encounter with God."

Nathan Elliott, 17, son of a chemistry professor from Pineville, La., began his first convention night watching seven teenage boys throw a ball against the wall at the Kentucky Exposition Center. But by the next day, he was mixing it up with Cameron Reed, 15, of St. Simons Island, Ga., among others.

"I liked the worship," Elliott said, shifting from foot to foot. He had heard Phil Stacey and others speak and liked what he heard.

"It was a good message on what it means to have faith," Elliott said. Before he could say more, his friends called him and he was but a blur in a T-shirt that said "God is our refuge."

Meghan Durand, 15, from Montpelier, La., said she enjoyed friendships she made within just a few hours of being at Fuge, noting, "You get to meet different people and learn where they are from."

While the Fuge students ventured to nearby Six Flags amusement park for one afternoon event, Spratt said he smiled with satisfaction when he asked a 12-year-old student what he could do to mature in his faith.

The student said, "Worship, Bible study and prayer."


Michael Ray Smith is a professor at Campbell University in North Carolina.

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