BY: ERIKA KNIGHT
Fine. Arts. No! No! Don't stop reading! Go with me here. If you've been in the Assemblies of God your ENTIRE life like I have than "Fine Arts" isn't just two words. In fact, these two seemingly harmless words probably conjure one of two feelings. Pure joy or seething hatred. The opinions on Fine Arts seem pretty black and white. Cut and dry. Either you like it or you don't. Let me rephrase, either you LOVE it or you LOATHE it. There is no in between.
As an Assemblies of God kid, I grew up around Fine Arts. My dad is a minister. My mom sings specials almost every week and yes, you guessed it, I was forced to wear matching hand-made dresses with my sisters to church every Sunday. If you can think of a church kid cliché, I fit the mold.
"Born on the front pew." "If the church doors were open I was there." Yep and Yep.
My stereotypical Christian upbringing included countless trips to youth camp, countless van rides to youth rallies and yes countless hours in Fine Arts practices. In the early years of my Fine Arts career I assumed everyone loved Fine Arts! I was surrounded by human video team members and excited leaders so in my own little 13-year-old world Fine Arts was king! It wasn't until I graduated and moved from Fine Arts participant to Fine Arts coach that I learned otherwise.
Slowly but surely, Fine Arts negativity began to find its way to me. I would hear former fellow human video team members crack a joke about how they were forced to sign up. I had a conversation with a youth leader that pretty much consisted of them telling me how pointless Fine Arts was. I heard parents and even coaches complain about the time it took and the cost. Boy oh boy! If I had a nickel for every time someone protested the fact that Fine Arts is a "competition" I would not only be rich, I'd be filthy rich! As the absolute furthest thing from a confrontational person that has ever existed in the history of mankind these were hard things for me to hear. I hate conflict. It makes my stomach hurt and I break out in cold sweats. Literally. But as my fellow leaders, elders and even pastors spoke so negatively about Fine Arts I couldn't help but take it personally. It made me sad. It even made me feel bad for them.
Before I express my personal opinion on Fine Arts (from the safety of my keyboard, locked away in my office) I will agree with all you haters on a few things:
- Fine Arts is expensive. There's not much else to say about that. It's simply true. Second,
- Fine Arts takes up an unnatural amount of your time each week. Again, just a fact. And third,
- Fine Arts can be taken way too seriously. That's right. This fiercely competitive girl just admitted that sometimes you can be TOO competitive. Sure, Fine Arts is a competition. We are all working hard for a reason. We want to win a trophy and we want to go to National Fine Arts. But come on! If you can't laugh at yourself and lose with grace from time to time then maybe it's time for a break.
Whew! Good! Now that we can agree on a few things let me get to the meat of this article. I LOVE FINE ARTS! I love it! I love (almost) everything about it. I'm not a crazy person. I'm not a stage mom. I'm not even a coach or Fine Arts parent but I love it so much that I actually work for my state Assembly of God youth department now and run our entire Fine Arts program! It's like a drug to me. But please hear me loud and clear, I don't love Fine Arts BECAUSE it's a competition. I don't love Fine Arts because of the performances. I don't love Fine Arts because of the trophies or winning first place or going to Nationals or showing off how much time I spent practicing during the weekends. None of this has anything to do with my love for Fine Arts. I love Fine Arts because it changed me.
After competing my first year in Fine Arts and then signing up for a second, third, fourth, fifth and so on I realized something. This thing. This thing called Fine Arts was changing me. Did I still want to win? Of course! But Fine Arts was teaching me life lessons that I can't imagine I would have ever learned otherwise. Along with being competitive, I am also painfully shy and the textbook definition of an introvert. I don't make friends easily and would rather read a good book alone than talk to someone any day of the week. But Fine Arts was forcing me out of my comfort zone. I went from signing up for only individual events my first year, to adding a small group, then a large group and finally my senior year I was singing a solo and had the lead in our human video! Even I was shocked! I was still me, of course. I was still shy. I still almost wet my pants every time I had to step in front of people to compete but I was doing it! I. WAS. DOING. IT.
Amidst the negative comments I've heard over the years about Fine Arts I've also heard some amazing things. Like a friend of mine who unashamedly admits that if it hadn't been for Fine Arts he wouldn't be saved today. Or another friend who has been able to use the very skills they learned in Fine Arts to perform skits and human videos on missions trips to reach the lost. Or me, who fully credits my time as a Fine Arts participant for the fact that I am running the Oklahoma Fine Arts program today.
Look, I'm not here to persuade you into loving Fine Arts. I have family members who still don't understand it and that's okay. To each his own. But I am here to ask you to allow everyone the opportunity to form their own opinion about Fine Arts. If I had had a youth pastor who talked badly about Fine Arts and downplayed it simply because of his own negative opinion of the program than I can guarantee you I wouldn't be the woman I am today. I wouldn't know that I'm capable of standing in front of a crowd of people and doing a human video. I wouldn't have many of my closest friends. I wouldn't have gained the confidence to speak up, try something new, push myself or dream big. And I most certainly wouldn't be singing on my churches worship team or working in a creative office where we share ideas, laugh at each other and work together to make great things happen every single day.
Fine Arts is one of those things that will forever be a black and white issue. You can say the words "Fine Arts" to anyone in the Assemblies of God and immediately know, just by the look on their face, which side of the coin they fall on. Love or hate. Passion or repulsion. I simply hope that after reading this article you can add one more possible reaction to hearing those two words. I hope you can remember me. I hope you can remember my friend who wouldn't be saved without it. I hope you can remember that somewhere out there, maybe in your youth group, there is a shy girl who has all these hidden talents and she just needs someone, something to help her discover them.
Wife to her high school sweetheart, mother to two unique (and hysterical) boys and co-worker with the best team in the world, Erika Knight happily wears many hats. When she’s not planning events for Oklahoma Youth Ministries (her paid gig) Erika spends her time volunteering at her church and writing for anything or anyone who asks. Erika is a firm believer in being real, working hard and putting others before herself. (Unless the Thunder are playing…nothing comes before the Thunder.)
//Facebook: Erika Knight