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Lakeside teen first Alabamian to win national Speakerís Tournamentcomment (0)

July 18, 2013

By Julie Payne


Lakeside teen first Alabamian to win national Speakerís Tournament

Armed with a relevant, engaging topic and a set of fine-tuned speaking skills, 18-year-old Rachel Sinclair secured associational, state and regional wins before becoming the first Alabamian to win the national Speaker’s Tournament. She took the title at the National Invitational Tournament for Youth and High School Bible Drill and Youth Speakers in Duluth, Ga., on June 21.

Sinclair was active in theater performances throughout high school, but she had never before participated in an official speaking event until a family friend introduced her to the idea of the speaker’s tournament. It wasn’t long before she was sifting through a list of available speech topics. 

Picking her topic “What Are You Tuned Into — the World or the Word?” came easily to Sinclair, who plans to attend Samford University in Birmingham and major in journalism and English. She decided to tailor her speech to reflect a media aspect. “That’s how we’re influenced … by media,” she said, noting that children ages 8–18 spend an average of more than 10 hours a day exposed to media. 

She explains in her speech: “‘Tune (means) to adjust so as to receive the signals of a particular transmitting station.’ Are you receiving your signals from the world or from the very Word of God?”

In today’s society, families are involved in a plethora of activities leaving little time to fellowship together, much less time to study God’s Word, Sinclair explained. “The study and memorizing (of) the Bible is not a priority in a lot of families today,” she said. “In order to know God and His will for our lives we’ve got to know who He is, and the way He reveals that is through His Word.”

The content of Sinclair’s speech, which focuses on the need to know God’s Word, “changed a lot” in her early stages of writing through “a lot of editing and revising,” she said. As she wrote and later tweaked her speech, Sinclair was purposeful about including personal stories and illustrations so that her listeners could better relate to the message. 

Sinclair’s mother, Angie Sinclair, helped her daughter prepare for tournament participation by providing critiques on everything from her stance to hand gestures. 

“She really is a committed Christian who loves God’s Word,” Angie Sinclair said, adding the speech topic was one that “just pierced (Rachel’s) heart.”

“I practiced a lot in front of my family,” Rachel Sinclair said of her preparation. “My mom really helped me (and) gave me feedback — she was … my other perspective.”

Rachel Sinclair was the only person from her church, Lakeside Baptist Church, Birmingham, to participate on the church level. She then advanced to additional tournaments before securing a spot to represent Alabama at the national event held at the Georgia Baptist Missions and Ministry Center. 

Sharing testimonies

Thirty students total — Bible drillers and speakers — participated in the national tournament. Sinclair said that the night before the tournament the participants had the opportunity to introduce themselves and share their testimonies. 

On the day of the tournament, Sinclair was slated to speak last. She enjoyed watching the Bible drillers who participated in between sets of speakers. “It’s just very inspiring” to watch them, she said, adding these students know the Bible backward and forward and their vast knowledge Scripture went along with her own speech’s theme of being dedicated to God’s Word. 

Sinclair said she was “really shocked” when the announcement was made that she had won the speaking tournament. “I was just very blessed and thankful because I know I couldn’t have done it on my own,” she said, alluding to the encouragement of her parents and others. As the first place winner, she was presented with a large trophy. 

“Nine previous Alabama Baptist State Speaker’s Tournament winners have all presented great speeches,” said Sonya Tucker, associate in the office of Sunday School and discipleship at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “But … Rachel Sinclair is the first Alabama speaker to win the first place speaker award during the 10th National Invitational Bible Drill and Speaker’s Tournament, which is sponsored by several state conventions. Her confident, well-organized but personal presentation of her beliefs about tuning into God’s Word — rather than the world — communicated well with listeners and judges.”

Sinclair’s interim pastor at Lakeside Baptist, Richard Trader, said the entire church is “excited about this honor and we are really proud of her.” 

Trader and his wife attended the state Speaker’s Tournament in Montgomery in April when Sinclair won, and he noted he was not surprised at her accomplishments considering her speaking voice and speech’s content. 

Angie Sinclair said her daughter’s commitment to Christ was strong to begin with, but it has grown even more through this experience. “It’s just beautiful to see,” she said.

Rachel Sinclair also recognizes the lasting value in this experience, encouraging others who are considering becoming involved in the tournament events to do so. “I’ve learned how to put my thoughts together and convey (those) to other people,” she said. “It’s … been a way to be able to speak about something I’m passionate about and witness to others at the same time.”

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