Wow, were to begin… Fine Arts Festival, whether at the District level or the National level is a great way for teens to share their passion for Jesus in a ministry setting. Fine Arts is a discipleship tool of National Youth Ministries designed to help Jr. High and High School students discover, develop and deploy their ministry gifts. To learn more about how you can get involved in Fine Arts Festival or for more information, check our their website, www.faf.ag.org.
Fine Arts has several divisions in which to enter; Vocal, Drama, Communication and Exhibition. Within these divisions are specific categories. Example, vocal solo, vocal ensemble, Christian band and songwriting are all categories within the vocal division. It all starts at the District Fine Arts Festival. Each competitor is critiqued by a panel of judges and then scored accordingly. If you receive a high enough rating at the District level, you are invited to the National Fine Arts Festival.
We competed our first year in Fine Art Festival in the Nebraska district and were blessed to be invited to nationals in both the vocal and drama divisions. Nerves were definitely a huge factor the first time we performed! I remember looking out at the sea of faces, singing Look What Love Has Done by Jaci Velasquez, and wondering what the judges would say on my critique sheet. They wrote encouraging words of constructive criticism which I have used to become the artist I am today. At the end of the festival during Closing Ceremonies, they would announce those that qualified for nationals, the top three finalist and the merit award winner (first place).
Nationals that year was held in Albuquerque, NM. Though we never made it passed the first round, we learned valuable lessons about ministry as well as techniques that have helped us to this day. Fine Arts was always something that we would look forward to every year. God allowed us to compete in the National Fine Arts Festival every year and we went to such cities as Washington DC, Austin, TX, Orlando, FL, Denver, CO and Indianapolis, ID. Though we competed at Nationals all those years, we only received two advancements to the second round of competition. However, we learned life lessons during that time that still stick with us. We learned that Fine Arts wasn’t really about a competition, but instead about what God wanted to do in our lives; how He wanted to use students to minister to others for His glory. We were honored to even be at the National level and when we did advance in the competition we were beyond excited.
Since the Fine Arts Festival is for students grades 7-12, our last year of competition was bittersweet. We wanted to make the most of it so we practiced everyday and did all we could to make sure our stuff was the best that it could be. As a group, we entered in several categories including; Small Vocal Ensemble, Collaborated Songwriting, and Worship Team and Alika entered Individual Songwriting, Poetry and a Vocal Solo. Lainika sang a vocal solo as well. We arrived in Wichita, KS (we were attending a church in Kansas hence we had switched districts) and got registered and ready to go. Up until that point, I had pretty much made everything about me, what I wanted to do, what goals and dreams I wanted fulfilled. During the opening however, I made this heart felt change and said, “OK, God, I don’t care if I even go to Nationals this year. I may never win the merit award but I don’t care anymore. Just let someone hear the songs that we sing and be changed by You. Let the message in the music we share touch someone’s heart and do amazing things in their soul. And change me too God, into the person you want me to be.” After surrendering everything to God and leaving the outcome in His hands, I was able to totally enjoy myself. Since I wasn’t worrying about if this note was a tad flat or if the judges liked my outfit, I could connect with those who were watching, willing them to see the reason I was singing. God blessed us more than we could have imagined. We won five merit awards and advanced to Nationals in Indianapolis.
In Indy, God again blessed us and we received a Superior with Honors (the highest rating you can get) in most of the categories we entered. During closing ceremonies, at the end of the week long competition, the finalist for all categories are announced. We were shocked to see that we had placed in the Top 3 in the Individual Songwriting Category with our song Unmistakable (featured on our first release Eternity Focus). We also placed in the Top 5 with our song I Still Believe in the Collaborated Songwriting Category. God truly does have amazing plans for your life. When you surrender everything to Him and leave the results in His hands, He does awesome, amazing things that are beyond your wildest imaginations.
We are forever grateful to everyone who put together the district and national Fine Arts Festivals that we were privileged to attend in our teen years. The life lessons that we learned about making our life more about ministry than about money/career/fame etc… we learned first at Fine Arts. While singing on stages in cities that will forever live in our memories of the past, we learned to depend on the One who has dreamed about our destiny.