I’m Going Big

My debate club is running a tournament next week. We’re going to have nearly 100 debaters, 100 judges, and a boatload of parents and grandparents with video cameras running around Vista Grande Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. It’s going to be awesome.

What we’re doing with debate is bigger than you might think. (Photo by Heidi Mittelberg)

As Tournament Director (TD), I get to give a series of speeches throughout the day. Some TD’s get bogged down into details: speeches to students are about picking up trash, to judges about filling out ballots, to parents about keeping their little kids under control. I have logistics coordinators that will make sure these details are communicated.

I’ve dedicated nearly 20 years of my life to this activity, so I’m going big. I’ll have only a few minutes to speak to some of these people, and I want to make an impact. There are three big ideas I want every competitor, parent and judge to walk away with next week. 

1. The Big Deal

Our culture is muddled with an opinion of young people that is depressing. Teenagers are baggy, disrespectful, foulmouthed, slothful, ugly. The teenage culture is a sad, uninspiring culture.

Watch a debate competition, and that stereotype turns quickly. They’re a sight to see. Young people decked out in suits, prepared with case briefs at-the-ready, confidently speaking at the podium and challenging the ideas put in front of them.

One of the most common comments I receive working these tournaments – especially from judges or parents who have a negative view of young people – goes something like this:

“I’m so impressed. If these kids are going to be the leaders of tomorrow, I no longer have anything to worry about.” [Tweet this]

Folks, this is a big deal. You’re involvement in these young people’s lives are training them up for great things. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first…

2. The Big Day

There will be anxiety in the air next week. Many of these kids will be debating for the very first time, others eager to jump back in the fray. This tournament will run smoothly if everyone involved remains focused and committed to their specific work.


  • Competitors: They need to stick with the training you’ve received these past couple months. Stay focused, confident, and unwavering.
  • Judges: They should pour their hearts into those comments on the ballot. The students want to grow and get better. Be honest and thoughtful and encouraging.
  • Volunteers: They need to make sure their little corner of the tournament is done with excellence – tabulation, balloting, orientation, way finding, cooking.

This is a big day. A big day of great work. It all contributes to…

3. The Big Dream

As mentioned, I’ve dedicated that last 20 years of my life to this activity of debate. I’m serious about it. But it’s much bigger than most people think. See, most think debate is solely academic, a school subject to check off, an “extra” curricular activity.

Folks, debate is spiritual. This is why Training Minds is a “ministry.” It’s based off a biblical mandate to “train the mind for action” (1 Peter 1:13). We’re sharpening minds here, and we’re molding hearts – of the very people we care so much about, the next generation, our children.

My dream is big. So should yours be. It’s this: an entire generation of thinkers, speakers and persuaders taking over the world. Why not? The alternative is thoughtless, speechless, and gullible masses. This dream is coming true in small corners of the country at tournaments like this one.

Next week is a big deal. It’s a big day. And we’re part of a big dream.

Action: Interested for more? You can help support this good work. See www.trainingminds.org. If you’re near Colorado Springs, volunteer to judge.