A Brief History of the National Christian College Forensics Association
by Dr. Kevin Jones, Chapman University
In October of 1986, Dr. Kevin T. Jones, then Director of Forensics at Otterbein College in Columbus, Ohio, judged a final round of Duo at a tournament at Miami University, Ohio. One of the Duos was extremely sexually explicit, making both Dr. Jones and many members of the audience very uncomfortable. David Robey, Director of Forensics at Cedarville University, watched the round as Cedarville had one or two duos in that same final round. After the round, Dr. Robey approached Dr. Jones and asked him for his thoughts on the round. Dr. Jones expressed his frustration over the sexually explicit duo and the two coaches talked about how great it would be to be able to attend a tournament where they could engage in their craft that they loved yet not be exposed to material and presentations that they would not normally choose to expose themselves to.
Based upon that conversation, Dr. Jones had a vision and began dreaming about the creation of a National Christian forensics competition. However, since Dr. Jones did not teach at a Christian college at that time, the dream would have to remain just a dream for several years. In April of 1996, Dr. Jones judged a preliminary round of competition at the National Forensics Association national tournament with then Director of Forensics Cynthia Byelene at Malone College. Dr. Jones had just accepted a position to begin serving as the Director of Forensics at Azusa Pacific University starting in the fall of 1996. Knowing that Malone was a Christian college, Dr. Jones struck up a conversation with Professor Byelene and shared his dream of an all Christian college forensics tournament. Professor Byelene was very supportive and said that Malone would be very interested in being a part of such a contest. Based upon such positive support and after much prayer, Dr. Jones felt led by the Lord to move forward and give birth to the NCCFI.
Dr. Jones obtained a list of membership for the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and sent out a letter of inquiry to see if there was support for such a national tournament. The response was moderately supportive. So, in November of 1996 at the National Communication Association annual convention in San Diego, California, a gathering was held of interested coaches. Around 6-8 coaches attended and driven by strong support promised from the five southern California CCCU schools (Biola, APU, Cal Baptist, Point Loma, and Vanguard) plans were made for the inaugural tournament to take place in the spring of 1998 at Azusa Pacific University. The tournament would be designed to allow participants in intercollegiate forensics to participate in their craft, free from offensive material and free to do material that might be penalized at mainstream tournaments because it was too “religious.” Also, Dr. Jones was committed to keeping Novice and Open divisions separate and that the tournament would always strive to put “as many trophies in as many hands as possible!”
Dr. Jones contacted the CCCU and was able to convince the CCCU that they should financially support the NCCFI. Contacts at the CCCU connected Dr. Jones with Regent University who also agreed to provide financial assistance. Enough money was raised for the first tournament that no entry fees were charged. The CCCU provided partial financial support for the second tournament in 1999, but chose to discontinue their association the tournament after that year. Regent University has remained a strong friend to the NCCFI and has financially supported every tournament and has sent a representative to the tournament every year.
Using the CCCU mailing list as a guide, approximately 100 invitations were sent out in the fall of 1997 and on February 12-14, 1998 the first ever National Christian College Forensics Invitational was held at Azusa Pacific University. Twelve schools attended the inaugural event with Southwest Baptist University winning sweepstakes. (The founding schools being Northwest Christian College, California Baptist College, Bethel College, Malone College, Biola University, Southwest Baptist University, Azusa Pacific University, Evangel College, Seattle Pacific University, Point Loma Nazarene College, Southern California College, and Geneva College). Twelve different Individual Events were offered – ten regular IE’s and two new events. In keeping with the theme of the tournament, Dr. Jones created two new categories of competition – Oral Interpretation of Faith Literature and Religious Oratory. Religious Oratory was dropped after the first tournament, but the Oral Interpretation of Faith Literature has become a popular mainstay of the tournament.
In 1999, fourteen schools descended upon the APU campus for the second version of the tournament. For the 1999 tournament, the theme verse for the NCCFI was selected and has been a part of the NCCFI ever since. The verse is Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer every person.” This verse embodies the vision of those responsible for starting the tournament that through the NCCFI, believers will hone and develop their communication skills to better prepare them to share Christ with a world that needs to hear about him. With this vision, God has blessed the tournament as each year has found new schools attending the tournament and more than twenty schools now regularly attend the tournament every year.
Azusa Pacific University hosted the first five tournaments from 1998-2001. Dr. Jones, then Director of Forensics at APU, served as tournament host and Tournament Director for those first five years. In 2001 Dr. Jones retired from forensics and left APU to take a non-forensics position at a different university. A new host was needed and Biola University stepped in and hosted the Fifth Annual version of the tournament in 2002. Dr. Jones served as the Tournament Director while Biola University Director of Forensics, Erick Roebuck, served as the host. Point Loma Nazarene University volunteered to host the 2003 edition of the tournament. At the 2003 tournament coaches meeting, a bid to host the 2004 tournament at Cedarville University was accepted along with a proposal that the tournament begin alternating between the Midwest and the west coast. California Baptist University submitted a bid to host the 2005 tournament.
By the 2002 tournament, the NCCFI had become well established in the forensics community and Dr. Jones called for the creation of an executive committee to begin oversight of the tournament. Dr. Jones was elected as the President of the organization; Dr. Michael Dreher of Bethel College (MN) was elected as the Tournament Director. The United States was divided in to two districts using the Rocky Mountains as the dividing point and two districts were formed. Each district was permitted to elect two representatives to the Executive Committee. This new Executive Committee began oversight to the NCCFI for the 2002 edition of the tournament. At the 2002 tournament, a position of executive secretary/treasurer was created and added as an official Executive Committee position. At the 2004 tournament, Dr. Dreher developed and proposed a formal constitution for the coaches to approve as a governing tool for the tournament.
In May of 2003 with one year remaining on his term as president, the Lord called Dr. Jones to pursue other academic endeavors and he regretfully resigned from his position as president. After much prayer and thoughtful consideration, Dr. Renea Gernant of Concordia University (NE) agreed to step in and complete Dr. Jones’ term as president. Dr. Gernant presided over the 2004 tournament.
The tournament has grown and matured as additional events have been added since the first tournament such as Programmed Oral Interp, Lincoln-Douglas debate and Reader’s Theatre. The NCCFI has experienced many growing pains along the way as Satan never wants anything from the Lord to succeed. But through prayer and belief that God has always been at the helm, the NCCFI has survived and grown and matured. It is the hope of all involved in the creation, development, and execution of the tournament that God will bless it and allow it to flourish according to His will until the day of Christ’s return.
Proverbs 29:18 instructs us that without a vision the people perish. God planted a vision in the mind of one of his servants for a Christian forensics event. In God’s perfect time that event – the National Christian College Forensics Invitational – was born and is now a mainstay on the national forensics circuit. It is the prayer of those responsible for the leadership and guidance of the NCCFI that all who participate in the tournament will share in that original vision and experience God’s blessings as they participate in an activity they love surrounded by people who share their commitment and love for the Lord.
Date last updated: November 20, 2007.