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Sharing Faith through Fine Arts

Each year, thousands of kids from across the country showcase their faith and talents through Fine Arts Festival. Now, missionary kids can, too.

For most students, summer is filled with vacations, camps, retreats, and hanging with friends. For many students in the Assemblies of God, summer comes alive by expressing their creative gifts through fine arts and sharing them at the national Fine Arts Festival.

This year, 10,000 attendees gathered in Columbus, Ohio, on July 30 - August 4 — the festival’s 60th annual meeting. Over 5,000 students from all over the nation, as well as Samoa and Puerto Rico, presented their work before 125 evaluators.

Holly Davis, Team Advancement Director, is quick to say that the Fine Arts Festival isn’t a talent show. It’s a celebration of the Creator who inspires creativity in His children, and it’s rich in spiritual substance. This is reflected in the festival’s mission statement: to help students discover, develop, and deploy their artistry to spread the gospel.

Davis made sure the festival provided plenty of opportunity for discovery and development this year. Students, ranging from sixth grade to college age, entered in 108 fine arts categories. A new category, music production, will be added in 2024, allowing students to produce their own music tracks at home and present them at the national event.

This year students also attended an array of fine arts workshops and master classes, taught by high-caliber speakers. Subjects covered everything from sermon prep and delivery to songwriting, taught by Southeastern University’s worship team. Singer Jeff Deyo presented a master class on vocals and creating an authentic worship culture in youth ministry. Through the master classes, students can see how God is using these speakers’ artistry for His kingdom and that He can do the same through them as well.

Davis, 47, is pleased with the instruction at this year’s festival and wants to expand master classes next year, but she stresses the focus of the whole program: discipleship, development, and spreading the gospel. Fine arts provide a fresh vehicle for sharing the Word.

She explains, “One of the things we say is ‘My paint brush is my pulpit. My camera is my pulpit. My script is my pulpit.’ In other words, what we're trying to communicate to our students is that preaching the gospel, although it can be standing behind a pulpit doing a sermon, can also be in the worship dance category, choreographing a dance that explains who God is.”

In addition to the positive impact of the Fine Arts Festival for the past 60 years, it was destined for more in 2023 by including entries from missionary kids.

The idea came from Michelle Wellborn, a third-generation AG missionary currently serving in Argentina. For years her children, all born in the mission field, wanted to share their creative talents at the festival. But thousands of miles between the U.S. and their foreign assignments made that impossible.

When Wellborn, 45, approached Davis about including MKs (missionary kids) in the festival, Davis jumped at the opportunity. With the blessing of missionary leaders in Springfield, the Missionary Kids District was born, with Wellborn as its fine arts coordinator. Thanks to the diligence and dedication of these women, 25 MKs from every continent submitted their work virtually this year. Some made it to the national competition in Ohio.

Wellborn is thrilled with that response, but her desire to pull MKs into the festival fold goes deeper than just fine arts. Living in far-off places, these kids feel disconnected from the United States.

Wellborn explains, “The question I think any missionary kid hates is ‘Where are you from?’ because they can't tell you. Part of them says, ‘I'm from Missouri,’ and then part of them are like ‘I'm from El Salvador.’ It’s the hardest question.”

A district for MKs eases the pain of this question. It gives them a place to belong, to see what other students are doing, and to have their creative gifts validated so they can use them to evangelize.

Perhaps more important, Wellborn believes the festival’s discipleship in the creative arts will have a positive spiritual impact on missionary kids.

“I'd love to see these MKs know who they are and know they have something to give,” she says. “A lot of times the devil takes advantage, and some step away from the Lord completely — not just away from the ministry. They just can't find themselves.”

Davis sees the same need and is ready to help. She says the festival comes alongside missionary kids in other countries just as it does kids in the States.

“We want to say, ‘We see you. We see your gifting. And now let us help you develop it so that you can deploy it there as well.’”

The Fine Arts Festival will meet August 5-9, 2024, again in Columbus. Wellborn will be there, drawing in more missionary kids. And Davis will be there, encouraging all students to take their gifting from a hobby to a higher calling.

She puts it this way: “The Lord is saying, ‘Listen, I have anointed you. I've gifted you. Now go use it to tell people about Me.”

UPPER PHOTO: Members of the group, "Seven," from Grace Fellowship in Bogart, GA, were awarded first place in the Vocal Ensemble, Large category during the 2023 Fine Arts Festival in Columbus, OH. 

LOWER PHOTO: Holly Davis

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Sherri Langton

Sherri Langton, associate editor of Bible Advocate magazine and Now What? e-zine, is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Focus on the Family, Decision, Upper Room, Today’s Christian Woman, and other publications. Langstone, who lives in Denver, also has contributed to book compilations.