Baton Passed as NIYC 2023 Honors Leadership, Anticipates Bright New Day

 In All Church of God, CHOG

By Alecia Swoope and Carl Stagner

Historically the National Inspirational Youth Convention of the Church of God has been associated with students or youth and the next generation. More recent shifts have fine-tuned its emphasis on families; mothers, fathers, grandparents, and youth leaders from across the country joined together with young people at NIYC 2023 in Houston, Texas, December 27–30. The family reunion was a safe place to be seen, celebrated, and be reminded of what it is to be a person of faith, no matter how young or old. Interspersed with some of the finest worship arts and preaching you’ll hear this side of heaven, NIYC 2023 was especially poignant and powerful for its celebration of the passing of the baton of leadership—and the prevailing anticipation of a bright new day.

NIYC is a reminder that youth must not be despised (1 Timothy 4:12), but cherished. This year’s theme was “Real Love,” based on Romans 12:9–13 and John 13:34–35. Not only was there passionate preaching, encouraging our youth in what it is to love in a godly way, but there were also dynamic breakout sessions that focused on the practical aspects of love, such as how to navigate heartbreak and disappointment, and how to build healthy and righteous relationships. In addition, there were sessions that served the adults, such as how to be men and women after God’s own heart.

There was even a session for youth leaders with inspiration and instruction on how to remain near to God’s heart as they lead and disciple youth. There were several other activities, such as a community service activity (writing letters of encouragement and inspiration to children whose parents are incarcerated), basketball and volleyball tournaments, a concert with influential gospel artist Casey J, as well as the annual NIYC talent show (which was incredible—those kids were amazing; from vocal talent, to rap, to dance, etc.).

This year marked the fourth and final year in Michael Copeland’s tenure as NIYC president. He and his family were celebrated, loved on, and honored for the way in which they have served with love, compassion, grace, and diligence. A video featurette included words of encouragement from a variety of sources, all touched by Copeland’s ministry at the helm of NIYC over many hurdles, the highest of which was identified as COVID. The video concluded with these words of summary: “President Copeland, you have served so very well. Your dedication to the ministry of the National Inspirational Youth Convention has made an impact on many. Thank you for your faithfulness and tenacity during what was a challenging season. Thank you for the sacrifice and investment of time, talent, and treasure.”

Copeland then rose to the platform to offer reflections, including an important observation amid transition in leadership: “What is so encouraging to me is that, regardless of where we were, greater is in our future.” Upon those words, Rev. Dr. Matthew Quainoo, also pastor of Solid Rock Church of God in Kissimmee, Florida, rose to stand in recognition of the passing of the baton. Among several pronouncements, Quainoo revealed major ways in which the National Inspirational Youth Convention will be enhanced to better serve its constituents and make a bigger mark for the kingdom of God. Principal among these, the next NIYC will be in June 2025—allowing greater family time around the holidays; a notable departure from the end-of-year precedent. Additionally, financial accessibility to the events will be extended dramatically, as registration fees are expected to be waived as partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities are leveraged as future venues. On college campuses, students will also have the chance to apply onsite for college, and adults will have the chance to participate in several in-service training opportunities.

Outgoing NIYC president offered these remarks, confirming Quainoo’s role and leadership for such a time as this: “He is…of the biggest visionaries at his young age that I’ve ever seen. I’m excited to see where God is going to bring every one of us on this journey!”

Learn more about the National Inspirational Youth Convention, and link to archived session video, at www.niyc.org.

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