Every year for the first weekend in January, our staff travels from their fields across the country to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This vacation destination is sometimes snowy, always beautiful, but the scenery is not why we travel so far. 5,000 teenagers and youth leaders converge on the tourist town each year for the Tennessee Christian Teen Convention, affectionately known as TCTC.
This convention was started in 1983 by “youth ministers who had the dream of pooling the resources of statewide churches to create an event bigger and better than any one church could do alone,” according to the TCTC website. Some of our staff grew up going to this convention, or came as youth leaders. Now there are churches from 11 states traveling to Tennessee for this amazing time of worship, learning, and fellowship every year.
CrossRoads’ active involvement with TCTC started shortly after our own founding in 1993. “We wanted to partner with a mission that practiced the Helping Without Hurting model,” remembers John Pryor, Senior Minister of Morrison Hill Christian Church. At the time John was a youth minister and on the leadership team for TCTC. “Several of us had heard of or even worked with CrossRoads, and knew CrossRoads was already practicing that model.” (This was several years before Helping Without Hurting would be published, but the desire for effective short-term missions was already apparent for CrossRoads and for TCTC.)
Over the years TCTC has fundraised for us, promoted us, and allowed us to connect with leaders and students at the convention. In recent years, all the money raised at the convention goes toward building houses in Piedra Angular, the Christian community we have built in Piedras Negras, Mexico.
“Building houses in the neighborhood of Piedra Angular is one of the ways that we work to connect American volunteers with local believers,” the Mexico team emphasizes on social media. “But the houses are only the beginning. Houses become homes, homes become a place to do ministry, and an entire neighborhood built up in this way becomes a light in our city. It starts with a house, and becomes so much more.”
At the convention
Over the past two years, TCTC has raised $50,546 for CrossRoads. “Our partnership with TCTC has enabled us to work much faster on the houses that we are building and make progress with more specialized groups that otherwise would’ve been restricted by the availability of funds,” said Matt Johnson, Project Manager of CrossRoads Missions Mexico.
Every year our presence at TCTC looks a little different. This year we were more ambitious than ever. CrossRoads has been the official mission trip for TCTC since 2020, focusing on our Mexico field. This year, members of our Mexico team got on stage at each session and shared their stories about Mexico and the importance of CrossRoads’ work. We also hosted a workshop where students and leaders could learn Spanish, see our “Meet the Neighbors” exhibit about Piedra Angular, play a game of lotería, try some Mexican candy, and view our new 360 video experience!
“With any mission organization we promote at TCTC, we want it to be tangible,” explains Chad Stowers, Youth Pastor at Seymour Heights Christian Church and Missions Director for TCTC. “We want students and leaders not just to give their money to that mission but to have the opportunity to plan a trip to that mission and participate in its work. Going on a mission trip can be life-changing, and CrossRoads provides that opportunity.”
The Mexico team adds that TCTC gives them a unique opportunity in return. Matt goes on to say, “My favorite part of our partnership with TCTC has been getting to share about the ministry we do with so many people and give them the opportunity to partner with us even if they aren’t able to make it to Mexico to serve with us in the field.”
“I believe missions is important to TCTC because it challenges students (and leaders) to be selfless – to put others first,” continues Chad. “We all show up to TCTC ready to be entertained and challenged by the talent on the stage, ready to cruise the streets of Gatlinburg and have fun staying up late in the hotels and cabins. But at some point, we have to stop making it about us, and I think missions does that. Missions helps us to see that there’s a world outside of ours and people who need our help and need the Gospel.”
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