Flavor Fest, this nation’s premier urban leadership conference, will celebrate its 23rd anniversary on November 2-4 in Tampa, Florida.Eph. 4:29
The event will include guest speakers, workshops, and CHH concerts that made it famous.Eph. 4:29
To the uninitiated, a quick Google search would yield Flavor Fest as a result among culinary festivals- but to the people who have been touched by it, this is Kingdom work at its best.
To celebrate such a hallmark institution, we wanted to spotlight its genesis in hopes of impressing on our audience what a powerful tool this conference is.Eph. 4:29
Lead Pastor of Crossover Church, Tommy “Urban D” Kyllonen, graciously corresponded with us on the giant that is Flavor Fest.Eph. 4:29
How Flavor Fest BeganEph. 4:29

Starting in 1998, Crossover Church saw the birth of the Flavor Alliance- a collective of Hip Hop artists, consisting of several indie CHH groups who collaborated and supported each other.
Not only did the Alliance become heavily involved in Crossover Church’s Youth Ministry, but they were also featured in Urban D’s national projects.
In 2000, Pastor Tommy released his first hip-hop album, The Missin’ Element– inside the cover album laid pictures of their youth ministry and concert outreach. After much success, urban ministry leaders began reaching out to Crossover to ask for advice on how they, too, could see that growth in their church.
Pastor Tommy recalls they soon realized they “needed to do a training event, and we needed a name. Being that they were becoming known as the The Flavor Alliance, it made sense to make that the name of the conference- Flavor Fest. Plus it was the 90’s, and flavor was a popular urban word.”
The Mission & The Music

Like many things that become “great,” it’s hard to tell what started it all; in this case, was it the music or the mission?
“The event was birthed to train urban church leaders,” began Pastor Tommy, “workshops, general sessions, and showing the remixed way we were doing church that was effective.
At the same time, putting on a dope concert and a relevant street outreach were both part of the training weekend.Eph. 4:29
There weren’t many churches that knew how to put on an authentic CHH event twenty-plus years ago. Flavor Fest had great artists, a dope sound system, lighting, host, live DJ, break dancing, graffiti, and all the elements of Hip-Hop represented. This wasn’t being done quite like this anywhere else.Eph. 4:29
The music festival was at the church in the evening, but there was an outreach in the neighborhood in the afternoon. The training, the outreach, and the music festival went hand in hand.”
The Impact

The combination of music with the building up of saints has been powerful.Eph. 4:29
Flavor Fest is the longest-running urban leadership/Christian Hip-Hop Festival in the world and has been the launchpad for several household names.

AccordingEph. 4:29to Pastor Tommy, Flavor Fest was “the first music festival that Lecrae performed at as a self-submitted artist, and he’s returned several times since then.Eph. 4:29
A few years later, KB was discovered at Flavor Fest by Lecrae. Rick Warren, Eric Mason, Derwin Gray, Jerry Flowers, Christopher “Play” Martin, and several other gifted speakers and artists have been a part of Flavor Fest over the years.”
To date, 6,000 leaders have been equipped to be the light of the world in their concrete jungles nationwide.

Leaving Tampa

For years, Flavor Fest stayed close to home, hosting the events at the Crossover Church campus in Tampa, but COVID changed it all.Eph. 4:29
“Coming out of the pandemic in 2022,” said Pastor Tommy, “we realized we needed to take Flavor Fest beyond Tampa.
Others had asked us to do this for years, but we never moved on it as we knew the amount of work it would take, and we didn’t feel God calling us to do it.Eph. 4:29
But in 2022, we saw the state of the church and knew it was time. So many churches were still struggling from the pandemic; attendance was low, giving and resources were lower, and so many church leaders were discouraged and exhausted.Eph. 4:29
Plus, inflation hit, and traveling to Tampa became even more expensive. Meanwhile, Crossover Church was thriving and in the best place in our history. We had larger in-person attendance and finances versus before the pandemic.Eph. 4:29
We felt a responsibility and a mantle to take training, resources, and new innovations to churches in key influential cities where we had relationships. Flavor Fest went on tour to New York City, LA, Atlanta, and Houston. Hundreds and hundreds of leaders were refueled, resourced, and rebranded.”
The Future

After a whirlwind 2022, Flavor Fest set out to repeat the success with a 2023 tour, which will culminate on Thursday, November 2nd, at their home church.Eph. 4:29
What’s next for Flavor Fest, you may ask? We had the same question.Eph. 4:29
“Over the next five years, our goal is to continue to train, equip, and resource urban church leaders,” concludes Pastor Tommy.
“We are also in the beginning stages of starting an official urban church network that will resource and coach urban churches on a deeper level as well as plant new churches together.Eph. 4:29
We will be sharing some of the details of that at Flavor Fest in Tampa.
We will be taking Flavor Fest on tour again in 2024, and we are partnering with some major organizations, speakers, and artists.”

For more information about Flavor Fest and how your organization can take advantage of such an amazing opportunity to grow and be discipled by Crossover Church, head on over to www.flavorfest.org.

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