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Girls celebrate their speech awards at the first Lads to Leaders convention in Denver in 2018 | Photo provided

Lads to Leaders will cancel conventions for the first time in its history

Concerns over COVID-19 will shut down the Easter weekend gathering at all nine U.S. locations.

For the first time in its history, Lads to Leaders will not host its annual conventions.

The 52-year old ministry training program, associated with Churches of Christ, brings together more than 20,000 youths and their families on Easter weekend at nine sites across the U.S. But concern about the global COVID-19 pandemic led to the painful decision to cancel the 2020 conventions, said Roy Johnson, executive director of the Montgomery, Ala.-based ministry.

“After shedding many tears (the ministry’s board) came to the unanimous decision that there’s simply no way we can hold the 2020 convention due to the current crisis,” Johnson said in a video message posted Wednesday.

“Our concern is for everyone both the young and the old and everyone in between,” Johnson said, adding that the pandemic “has affected our homes, our schools, our churches and even brought this great nation to its knees.”

Meanwhile, directors of Leadership Training for Christ, a similar program that also takes place at sites across the U.S. on Easter weekend, have announced cancellations of some annual conventions.

Organizers of the Great Plains LTC in northwest Arkansas will “forgo the in-person convention” and instead “conduct convention events in a non-traditional manner,” its board members said in a statement.

In Dallas, directors of the North Texas Leadership Training for Christ convention are expected to make a decision soon about whether or not to cancel.

‘We knew it was coming, but it was still heartbreaking’

For Lads to Leaders, the cancellation is the first since the ministry began doing large-scale conventions in 1973. That convention was at Alabama Christian College (now Faulkner University) in Montgomery. Johnson, the brother-in-law of the ministry’s founder, Jack Zorn, was a member of the convention’s staff.

In the years since, the convention has become a highlight of the year for thousands of children in Churches of Christ.

“We knew it was coming, but it was still heartbreaking,” said Paul Kelsey, a member of the Sylvan Springs Church of Christ in Alabama who has participated in Lads to Leaders for more than 20 years.  “My 12 year old, Lila, just said, ‘Well, I already told myself it was going to be canceled, but I’m still very disappointed.’

“My main worry is for Lads to Leaders’ financial status after this. We’ve been praying for the board because they’ve never had to navigate through something like this.”

The news isn’t all bad, Kelsey added. In addition to Bible bowl, song leading and other in-person events, Lads to Leaders offers many pre-convention events, including video production and visual art. Three of Kelsey’s children recently learned that they placed in the mass media audio and PowerPoint categories.

Johnson told The Christian Chronicle, “After the crisis, we will deliver awards and convention items to churches. We will make adjustments to allow current seniors this year to participate again and find other ways to support local congregations in their efforts.”

Reflecting on the cancellation, the oldest of Kelsey’s children, 17-year-old Addi, said, “There are no words. However this reminds us that our work is not about competition, but spiritual growth.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Filed under: canceled cancellations Church of Christ corona virus Coronavirus Covid and church COVID-19 Lads to Leaders Leaderettes Leadership Training For Christ LTC National Partners Top Stories

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