leading the way
Truth and Peace Student Leadership Conference
Celebrates 25 Years
by Alan Pointer
If you have ever been to the National Youth Conference in the last 25 years, you have seen them stationed at the doors of competition events, working at children’s activities, and praying with teens who come forward during youth services. They are Truth & Peace.
Today, you can find them in pulpits around the country, on mission fields worldwide, and in your own neighborhood. They occupy board positions on a denominational level, and one is president of a Free Will Baptist college. They are Truth & Peace.
Someone who obviously did not understand the purpose and impact of Truth & Peace once said, “All they do is stand around.” So, in celebration of our 25th year, it is time to remind everyone what Truth & Peace is all about.
Truth & Peace Is Student Leadership
The summer of 1984 was a year of experimentation for Jim Lauthern, director of the Youth Department at Randall House. He left his role in publishing to create what would become the department of Student and Children’s Ministry. Jim had a vision for developing leadership training for students within the denomination. His simple plan had two parts, to start youth evangelistic teams around the country and to establish a leadership training conference called Truth & Peace.
The conference participants were students seen as leaders in their youth groups, or those who had potential leadership. Truth referred to the guy’s conference, centered on the verse Psalm 91:4, “His truth shall be my shield.” The girl’s conference was called Peace, based on Ephesians 2:14, “He Himself is our peace.”
That summer, 50 high school students from all over the Free Will Baptist world came together for a week of training at Free Will Baptist Bible College and a week of training at Camp Cumberland (Happy Hill Acres at that time). They took a bus to the National Youth Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. The goal was to see what would happen if high school students were given the challenge of running the National Youth Conference. The leadership skills they learned would then be put to use throughout the rest of their lives. With that in mind, the founders of the conference established the following mission:
The Truth & Peace Student Leadership Conference exists to train, motivate, and encourage high school students to impact their world through biblical leadership.
Their work at the National Youth Conference is simply a practical laboratory for the leadership principles taught during the first two weeks of the conference. During those weeks, students learn that God has uniquely gifted them for leadership in order to serve the denomination and the larger body of Christ.
Again this year, 84 students were challenged to find out how they can best impact their churches, friends, and families through a biblical servant leadership model. While teaching methods and materials may have changed, the purpose and mission remains the same. Truth & Peace is focused on student leadership.
Truth & Peace Is Missions
Each year, the conference places a high priority on missions. The first conference featured missionaries Robert and Judy Bryan. They taught students about the call and challenge of missions.
Truth & Peace participants continued to be motivated to global action when the first Peace director, Sarah Malone, left the states to teach English in China.
The challenge continued when Sam McVay, founding director of Truth, and his family moved to Spain to serve in Villalba.
Missionaries and mission fields have been directly affected as students learn the importance of global evangelism each year at Truth & Peace and respond by becoming career missionaries. A highlight of each year’s conference is a concert of prayer, led by International Missions staff member Neil Gilliland.
Neil remarks, “For a number of years I have been loosely connected with Truth & Peace, and I have watched firsthand the transformation that happens when students sit in quiet moments of solitude and hear the soft whisper of the Father saying, ‘Will you go?’
“And they have. Truth & Peace alumni now dot the missions map. Free Will Baptist International Missions is deeply grateful for the role Truth & Peace has made in developing the next generation of missionaries.”
One participant impacted by Truth & Peace is Kristi Johnson, missionary to Spain. “Truth & Peace was the beginning of many firsts for me—my first time to be so far away from home, the first time I spent time on the FWBBC campus, the first time I met Sam and June McVay. And it was the first time I saw the fellowship between Free Will Baptists across America.
“Before that time, my window to the world was what my hometown in South Carolina had to offer. But the summer of 1991 changed my life. I met friends who have become lifelong partners in our ministry in Spain.”
This summer, several Truth & Peace members also participated in E-TEAM missions trips around the world. These students continue the missions challenge of Truth & Peace.
Truth & Peace Is Training
From their first moments of training, Truth & Peace students are taught to return to their world and lead in homes, youth groups, churches, and schools.
Whether students attend one year or all four, they are equipped to lead in whatever positions they encounter. Lauren Taylor is a rising senior at the University of Arkansas, where she is a part of the percussion section in the band. “Although I have focused a lot on my own personal growth as a follower of Christ, Truth & Peace prepared me to be a leader at my school. Not only did I feel more equipped to be a leader but also as a servant for our Lord. My third year of Truth & Peace really drilled into me the fact that in order to lead, a person must learn to serve.
“In my opinion, it is unnatural for a leader to have the mindset of a servant. At school, I have been given several leadership positions and placed with people who are very difficult to serve. However, I have stuck with the idea of being a servant. At times, it is a daily battle to focus on being a servant to my peers whom I lead. However, I continually seek out the Lord’s guidance and spirit of perseverance, and it has made all of the difference in the world.
“If I had not received the training to work with people who are different than me with different values than mine, I do not believe I would have been able to survive the various leadership positions at my university.”
Truth & Peace Is Led by Leaders
Truth & Peace staffers are leaders in their own ministries and occupations. They include the past and present directors of the Student and Children’s Ministry Division of Randall House: Jim Lauthern, Dean Jones, and Danny Conn.
Conference directors through the years include Sarah Malone, Sam McVay, Deanna Hollifield, and Allen Pointer. Former staff members continue to lead in various roles across the denomination. These include Len Davenport, Steve and Katie Greenwood, Curt and Becky Gwartney, Mike Hollifield, Lisa McGee, Donald Myers, Pam Newsome, Mike and Renee Pointer, Brad and Marilyn Sneed, Jeff Stegall, and Eric Thomsen.
Several conference alumni have returned to serve, including Mitchell Cooper, Krista Lane, and Bryan Taylor, along with 2008 staffers Teri Deel, David Jones, Jerrod and Tyra Pilgrim, and Jill Warren. These staff members, together with Angie Deel, Jill Pointer, and Sean Warren, are continuing the legacy of leadership demonstrated to hundreds of students who are part of the fraternity of Truth & Peace.
The 2008 conference featured some of the strongest leaders from local youth groups in the history of the conference. They challenged to share their faith, given the tools to make it a priority in their lives, and during the convention their leadership skills were put to the test by serving the National Youth Conference with distinction.
Truth & Peace Student Leadership Conference is now accepting applications for the 2009 conference. If you are a high school leader, or if you know of one in your church, visit www.fwbnyc.com to download an application and learn how you or your student can take part. It may impact the next quarter century for the Kingdom of God. n
About the Writer: Allen Pointer finished his 12th year as director of Truth & Peace with the 2008 conference. In “real life,” he is the youth pastor at First FWB Church in Russellville, AR.