By Keaton Ross
For the 22nd straight year, the Edmond church’s young people developed their God-given talents through the Leadership Training for Christ (LTC) program.
About 80 students and 33 coaches traveled this weekend to the annual Great Plains LTC convention in Rogers, Arkansas — joined by a number of parents and other supporters.
During LTC, students in third through 12th grades devote time and talents to events such as puppets, sermon delivery, chorus and Bible quiz.
“I think it’s very important that we as adults continue to train our children for leadership in the church,” children’s ministry director Brenda Gordon said. “Our kids need to know how to feel confident in standing up in front of people in order to read a Scripture or lead a song.”
Preparation for LTC begins long before the actual convention takes place. From mid-January through April, students involved in LTC spend Sunday afternoons rehearsing puppet shows and memorizing Bible verses. Dedicated coaches guide the students as they master these spiritual skills.
While the practices can become tedious, the end result makes all the time spent worthwhile, said Andy King, who participated in LTC with Edmond from fourth through 12th grades.
“My favorite part of LTC was being at the convention itself,” said King, now a freshman at the University of Central Oklahoma. “All the work you put in leads up to the payoff at the convention when you get to perform in front of everybody.”
Getting to the convention is a major goal of LTC, but to be prepared, students must practice diligently. Practice times are incredibly valuable in more than one way: Students not only perfect their crafts, but they also form lasting friendships.
“I like LTC because you’re able to fellowship with friends you might not know as well at the time,” said Jarod Alsup, a ninth-grader who is home-schooled. “Through LTC, you hang out every Sunday afternoon, in between practices and stuff. You build pretty great friendships through that.”
At the center of these practices are the coaches. LTC coaches spend countless hours with their students, guiding them through practices and encouraging them as they perform at the convention.
Coaching LTC is an opportunity available to all members of the congregation, not just parents of children participating, Gordon noted.
“One thing that I think is really neat: the amount of people that help coach, and their children are not involved in LTC,” she said. “We have some people who are grandparents or just love LTC who come and help coach. Roger and Terry Morton, Paula Reed, as well as some people whose kids have gone through LTC, and they’re continuing on to be a part of it. And I think that means a lot.”
The congregation first became involved with LTC in 1995 when newly hired youth minister Randy Roper, now Edmond’s preaching minister, took a small group of students to the North Texas LTC convention in Dallas.
After interest and participation in the Dallas event grew the first two years, the Edmond church joined the first-ever Great Plains LTC convention in 1997. Edmond has participated in the Great Plains LTC for 20 years — first in Tulsa, Okla., and now 120 miles east in Rogers, Ark., where the event relocated in 2009.
Across the nation this spring, LTC and Lads to Leaders/Leaderettes conventions drew more than 40,000 members of Churches of Christ at sites in a dozen states. Most of the conventions occur over Easter weekend — a slow period for most hotels when organizers can take advantage of reduced rates.
Jeny Roberts was a student participant when Edmond went to its first LTC convention in 1995. More than two decades later, the wife and mother remains active in the ministry, coaching girls’ Bible reading and two puppet teams.
“It’s fun getting to spend time with the kids and make friends with them,” Roberts said. “I also love getting the chance to hone their leadership abilities and kind of guide them through making something that they can present and be proud of.”
In Roberts’ view, LTC is one of the most impactful programs available for students in both the children’s and youth ministries.
“I think LTC is important because it gives our kids spiritual goals,” she said. “It’s one thing to go on fun activities, but with this they’re actually working for a ministry purpose instead of just doing something fun together.”
For students involved in LTC, the program has a profound impact on their faith.
Learning how to be confident speaking in front of others has been the biggest blessing for Mitchell Roberts, one of Jeny Roberts’ four children.
“LTC has made me more comfortable doing things that lead people to God,” said Mitchell Roberts, an eighth-grader who attends Cimarron Middle School. “Things like song leading (and) sermon delivery have helped me get a grasp on being able to share God’s word with others.”
While LTC helps to train those interested in preaching and song leading, that isn’t the only focus. In addition to performing at the convention, students can also take advantage of pre-convention events like personal evangelism and poetry.
“One thing LTC has taught me is you don’t have to be a big speaker to make a difference in the church,” Alsup said. “You can do great things through one on one.”