CARROLLTON – First Baptist Church in Carrollton has an impressive reputation for producing award-winning Bible Drill and Speakers' Tournament students. This year was no different with Hannah Mathes taking home first place in the National Speakers' Tournament in Kingland, Georgia.
Mathes, an incoming junior at Prestonwood Academy, has been a participant in Bible Drill since fourth grade and started participating in Speakers' Tournament in eighth grade.
"Speaking is kind of my talent, so I was able to use that opportunity to show that," Mathes said.
Participants selected a topic from a given list to speak on and then build a speech from it with essential elements, such as scripture and outside sources.
To get to the national level, Mathes was required to be victorious first in her local church's speaker tournament, then at a regional competition and finally at the state competition. Only after winning all of those could she progress to the national tournament, held in Georgia.
"I like the idea of being able to passionately and convincingly share what I believe with people who may not have heard it before," Mathes said about why she does Speakers' Tournament.
Speakers Tournament is part of the broader Bible Drill program, which is running strong at First Baptist Carrollton. Gene and Sherry Pittman took charge of the program in 1982 and started with nine students. They currently average close to 60 students per year, and take almost all of them to the state competition every year.
"It's vital to have strong leaders. The support from parents and others who have been with us year after year. They love the kids and love working with them," Gene Pittman said on how they maintained such a successful program. He also noted the importance of one-on-one attention to personally encourage participants to work hard.
Hannah Mathes' twin sister, Rachel Mathes, won first place in the national competition in Bible Drill when she was in seventh grade as part of the middle school program. Both girls had strong foundations with the Pittmans' leadership.
"It strengthens their Bible knowledge, some come to salvation during this time, and it enriches their relationship with the Lord," Sherry Pittman said about the spiritual benefits of Bible Drill.
Extensive amounts of work goes into every side to help the child be successful--from the parents to the leaders to the kids themselves. The hours put in for practice and competitions seem overwhelming, but the verses the students memorize will be with them for a lifetime.
And, the Pittmans added, the leaders make a conscious effort to incorporate games into learning the material in order to keep things exciting.
"It takes a lot of extra effort, but it's worth it. And that's what keeps us coming back. It's worth every minute," Sherry Pittman said.
Not only do participants get a deeper understanding of the Bible and enhance their relationship with God, but Bible Drill and Speakers' Tournament students experience widespread benefits from their involvement.
Keith Lowry of Texas Baptists recently took over all of Texas Bible Drill programs. Having participated in it as a child, he feels strongly about the lasting effects of both scripture memory and speaking in front of large groups.
"These kids, at a young age, are able to speak in public in front of anybody," Lowry said. "It gives them an advantage in their education and their future careers."
While memorizing verses or formatting a speech may seem inconsequential, it can have a lifetime of effects both professionally, socially, and spiritually.
To watch Hannah speech, click here.
Linley McCord, a student at Texas A&M University, is currently serving as a joint Communications Intern for both the Baptist Standard and the Texas Baptists.