"Baptism," Stroud said. "Start."
Simultaneously, Bibles were flipped opened and pages were swiftly and skillfully turned. One student quickly stepped forward, his finger on the correct verse, well ahead of the eight-second time limit. Several other students stepped forward not a second later.
Such intensity marked the ninth annual National Invitational Youth Bible Drill and Speakers Tournament, which drew participants from 11 states to Birmingham, Ala.
Hosted by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and Meadow Brook Baptist Church, the event showcased Bible Drill and Speakers Tournament winners from each state as they competed June 24 for the national title in their respective categories: Youth Bible Drill (grades 7-9), High School Bible Drill (grades 10-12) and Youth Speaker (grades 10-12).
The afternoon's activities began with a welcome by Sonya Tucker, an associate in Alabama Baptists' office of Sunday School and discipleship, followed by an opening prayer by Meadow Brook pastor Ron Sumners, a video welcome by Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, and a time of congregational praise and worship.
The competition began with presentations by three of the nine youth speakers.
"Our student speakers write a four- to six-minute speech," explained Maria Brannen, a Georgia Baptist Convention discipleship ministries staff member. "They develop that speech and then they spend many hours practicing."
The speakers addressed such topics as "The truth will set you free" and "God is in control -- but do I have a choice?"
Many of the youth present their speech to their own church as well as to other area churches, Brannen said.
"It's not just an opportunity to say a speech," she said, "but it's a true opportunity for them to minister, to be able to share their faith through that. We are blessed each year to hear the faith expressed from the student speakers as they share what God has laid on their hearts through their speeches that they have written."
Bible drill rounds, interspersed between the speaking rounds, entailed a number of categories, such as the Identifying Verses Drill and the Doctrinal Drill.
Brannen, a former Bible driller and speaker herself, said many drill participants practice their skills on a daily basis as they memorize books of the Bible and a range of specific passages.
Leslie Haynes, a member of Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Oxford, Ala., won the national High School Bible Drill title. She is a rising high school junior who marked her seventh year competing in Bible drills.
As soon as the verses are made public each year, Haynes said, she begins to memorize them as quickly as possible. Her coach then has her practice drilling in four-second increments -- half the time allotted in competition.
Haynes said she didn't feel any anxiety during the national drill.
"I enjoy every minute of it, and I'm grateful that the Lord has given me the opportunity to hide His Word in my heart," Haynes said.
Her father, David Haynes, said, "We told her whether she won or not, it's her character that we're interested in. She's very compassionate, very diligent, very determined and she loves the Lord."
Kevin Boles, youth ministry strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention and chairman of the National Invitational Tournament procedural team, said the caliber of students who participate each year amazes him.
"They're passionate about God's Word, they're passionate about telling His story and they're passionate about demonstrating ... what God has done in their life," Boles said. "I've had the privilege of seeing at least two generations of students go through Bible Drill and Speakers Tournament ... and it's amazing to see how often they reflect back on their lives as ... participants."
An evening banquet followed the competition, then everyone returned to Meadow Brook's sanctuary for the awards presentation. Each participant received a commemorative award; perfect score winners received an additional award; and engraved trophies were given to first- and second-place winners in each category.
Bible Drill leaders are proud of the participants for sharing their faith in such a visible way, Brannen said, noting that some later become ministers or serve in missions.
"To me, it's just a blessing in the audience to be able to be a part of it and to listen to them," she said. "Yearly I just look forward to because I'm inspired each year as the students share their faith."
Next year, the competition will mark its 10th anniversary at First Baptist Church in Brunswick, Ga. Tucker said the new cycle of information for 2012 will be posted online around Aug. 1 at www.alsbom.org/bibledrills.
There is already talk of bringing back alumni to the 2012 event, Boles said, adding, "It's going to be a terrific time of celebrating."
Additional Bible Drill resources are available from LifeWay Christian Resources at http://www.lifeway.com/Keyword/bible+drill and are used in numerous state and associational Bible Drills across the country.
Julie Moore is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist (thealabamabaotist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. A complete list of winners and participants follows for the Ninth Annual National Invitational Bible Drill and Speakers Tournament:
YOUTH BIBLE DRILL
Winner, Taylor Alexis Oxendine (North Carolina), Mount Airy Baptist Church; second place, Autumn Adkins (Kentucky), Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church.
HIGH SCHOOL BIBLE DRILL
Winner, Leslie Haynes (Alabama), Meadow Brook Baptist Church; second place, Lauralee Lopez (North Carolina), Unity Baptist Church.
YOUTH SPEAKERS TOURNAMENT
Winner, Wil Bates (Georgia), Harp's Crossing Baptist Church; second place, McKenna Wyrosdick (Florida), Immanuel Baptist Church.
-- Alabama Baptist State Convention
Ellie Morris: Youth Bible Driller
Leslie Haynes: High School Bible Driller
Clay Greathouse: Youth Speaker
-- Arkansas Baptist State Convention
Bridgett Williams: Youth Bible Driller
Sara Weick: High School Bible Driller
Megan Weick: Youth Speaker
-- Florida Baptist Convention
Jordan McBride: Youth Bible Driller
Joshua Guy: High School Bible Driller
McKenna Wyrosdick: Youth Speaker
-- Georgia Baptist Convention
Christian Fricks: Youth Bible Driller
Stephen Frantz: High School Bible Driller
Wil Bates: Youth Speaker
-- Kentucky Baptist Convention
Autumn Adkins: Youth Bible Driller
Bailey Scott: High School Bible Driller
Jeremy Schott: Youth Speaker
-- Louisiana Baptist Convention
Andrew Wilks: Youth Bible Driller
Kimberly Landry: High School Bible Driller
Deborah Joy Rogers: Youth Speaker
-- Missouri Baptist Convention
Michael Poggemeier: Youth Bible Driller
Katie Poggemeier: High School Bible Driller
-- Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
Taylor Alexis Oxendine: Youth Bible Driller
Lauralee Lopez: High School Bible Driller
Chandler Fryar: Youth Speaker
-- Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
Robert Hill: Youth Bible Driller
Carter Lantz: High School Bible Driller
Mikaela Wilson: Youth Speaker
-- Baptist General Convention of Texas
Sherissa Blender: Youth Bible Driller
Jessie Price: High School Bible Driller
Christa Juneau: Youth Speaker
-- State Convention of Baptists in Ohio
Isaac Cloud: Youth Bible Driller
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net