Lads to Leaders 2014

Over the Easter Weekend, we attended the Lads to Leaders Convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tennessee. The annual convention is the culmination of a year of work in which young people are trained to use their talents in service to God and their church. Yes, there are competitions at the convention each year, but the real purpose of the Lads to Leaders program is training. If you happen to win a trophy, that is just icing on the cake, so to speak.

There are usually somewhere around 9,000 people at the Nashville convention, in addition to those at other conventions around the country. We always enjoy spending more time with our church family, as well as seeing friends from days gone by who are at other congregations or even in other cities. And there isn’t as much pressure on us adults, as we aren’t in any of the competitions.

Here are several photos from our weekend, giving just a glimpse of what it is all about. Click each photo to see it larger, by the way.

The way the events schedule is arranged, most of Jaylin’s events are on Saturday, which gives us a good bit of Friday to explore the hotel (it’s huge!) and see some other events that Jaylin isn’t involved in. Here, Laura and Jaylin stop for a photo by the river in the large Delta Island atrium section of the hotel.

We always take a photo with these horses, although I am never really sure why we do. But they are always there, and we see others taking photos with them, and we figure we should do it, too. By the time Jaylin is a senior in high school, we will have a nice photo collection of him with these horses through the years. Except that they keep staying the same while he keeps getting bigger.

It is a little known fact that I was the male model for this year’s convention shirts for our congregation. And the reason that it was a little known fact was because I just now made it up. But I would have gladly volunteered if they had asked.

Here are some of the Riedel family and some of the Burns family. Zach Riedel was off preparing for his debate that morning, and of course I was taking the photo. It is hard to get all of us together at one time. Rather like a herd of cats. Except that we are more friendly than cats. Most of the time.

So to make up for my not being in the previous photo, here is one of the three of us all together. Always the photographer, never the photographed. Or something like that. And Jaylin wears the shirt much better than I do. Laura didn’t wear her shirt that day, because she had to judge Girls’ Bible Reading, but she wore the shirt much better than I did, too. Not that anyone asked me to take my shirt off or anything.

While the adult Riedels were off judging art events, we adopted Katie for a while. And we got this nice photo in front of one of the many waterfalls there. I was pretty happy with how I slowed down the water for this one, actually.

So with the success of the previous water slowing photo, I got another one in front of this fountain, once again slowing down the water. I was starting to impress myself just a bit. Not that it impresses anyone else, unfortunately.

While Laura was off judging, and Zach was off debate-preparing, the rest of us did some shopping. This is how the guys shopped, while the girls were inside looking at the Vera Bradley stuff. Maybe Vera should come up with some sort of guy line of her stuff, because otherwise, we guys don’t really care much about it.

Here are Jaylin and my Dad at the first night’s awards ceremony. And my Mom is there, too, but she wasn’t looking at the camera. Jaylin didn’t win any awards at the first night’s ceremony, where they gave awards for art and mass media, among other things. But that was okay, because his main events weren’t until the next day.

Laura and I did get medals for Parade of Winners, where you get a medal for reading either the Old Testament or the New Testament in a year, or two medals if you read both, which you can see that we did. You can also see that Brant chose to photobomb our photo for some reason. I think he was trying to start something.

On to the second day, where Jaylin was giving his speech. Silly me, I didn’t think to get a video of it, although we were sitting far enough back that the camera wouldn’t have picked up the sound all that well anyway. Jaylin did well on delivering his speech, I thought, but unfortunately, he didn’t make it to the final round. Maybe that’s why I don’t judge speech. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Later on in the day, Jaylin was leading his song in the song leading event. I do judge song leading, and if I had been judging Jaylin’s group, I would have had him at the top of the list. Not that I am biased or anything. And this time around, he did make it to the final round, which meant that he would at least be on the stage at the awards ceremony for being a finalist!

Zach had led his song at the same time in his age group division, so we didn’t get to see that. And his sister Katie led hers in the girls’ division, too, once again at the same time. But the Riedels did get to stop by for the final round of Jaylin’s song leading, so that Jaylin had a pretty good sized group in there supporting him.

Here is Jaylin’s support group after his final song leading round. I think Laura was trying to blend in with the kids here. And after all, we have been mistaken for a couple of kids before, so it’s plausible, right?

At the awards ceremony, they announced Jaylin’s name as first place for 5th grade boys song leading! I don’t think he was all that excited - what do you think? That means that next year, he gets to compete in the Winner’s Circle group, going up against other past first place winners. No pressure!

I was taking a nice photo of the Riedel family, and Laura decided to pay back Brant’s photobomb from earlier. Yes, that is the kind of fun that we have.

And here are the Burns and Riedel kids with some of the awards they received on the second night. Katie’s trophy was for speech, Zach’s was for song leading (he also got a debate trophy that night), and Jaylin’s were for song leading and Bible Bowl. They all did well in all of their events, and as mentioned before, the awards were just a bonus. Although a very happy bonus.

This was our seventh trip to the Lads to Leaders Convention, and we are already making plans to be involved again the next time. After a short break to rest just a bit, of course.

I’m glad that our church at Bartlett Woods is involved in Lads to Leaders - it is good for everyone.

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.