Lessons Learned From A Week With Middle Schoolers
This past week I had the opportunity to go to a middle school camp in Ohio with some dear friends and lead them in worship. And while it was a tiring week, it was one I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I learned a lot from the students and from my Heavenly Father that week, and I think quite a bit of it is thoughts that are helpful to more than just kids, but to the Church as a whole. So I’m going to take a bit of time to share those things with you.
One thing that I have known but was brought to my attention more through this time is simply this: we do not (and should not) wait for the last one or two songs to genuinely worship.
We have created this culture in the Church where the worship is solely there for warming us up to the message or getting settled into our seats, and that is just not what it is meant for. We believe that in a life committed to Christ, every moment is worship. Every moment is seeking Him. So when we come together as the body of Christ and sing songs of our God, it is simply a continuation of the worship that has been taking place in our lives up to this point. It is an overflow of our love and affection for Him. So if we are living in this love, when we come together on a Sunday morning (or for a camp service), we shouldn’t take one or two (or three) songs to be “warmed up”. Before the music starts, our hearts should already be tuned in to His Spirit and ready to sing praises and truths about our God. We believe that God is worthy of all of our praise and devotion, but we only give him our attention for half of the worship time? That doesn’t make sense. And while I realize that camp is a different setting so it makes some sense that the kids would be more immediately engaged, it brought to light this culture that we’ve allowed of spiritual laziness that should be addressed and changed.
Another thing, and one of the of the first things that I realized, is that everyone is hungry to encounter the Holy Spirit, and instilling in children that they have access to their Father as soon as possible is an incredibly important thing. It’s important that we’re singing songs they can understand and easily engage in while encouraging them to seek the Holy Spirit. We need to talk through lyrics and give them the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of the words they’re singing. There’s no such thing as “too young” to know the voice of the Holy Spirit and engage with him in a worship setting. And while they may not get it all, we absolutely have to let them know that there is more available for them to experience in His presence and see any slight movement toward that as a victory. We worship as genuinely as we can as leaders and invite the Holy Spirit to be moving and turning hearts towards Him.
One of the last things I wanted to touch on, which goes along with the last point, is that we need to be avidly teaching and encouraging every congregation through times of worship. While at this camp, I was convicted of that. It is a lot easier to acknowledge the spiritual authority God has given me as a worship leader while working with middle school students, but God showed me how I had been neglecting my church body at home of the same education. It’s easy, as a 21-year-old, to see myself as someone who is not worthy of teaching or giving guidance. But in the generation before me, there is a large group of people who have never experienced intimacy with their Father. Who have never heard the voice of the Holy Spirit or experienced the freedom and peace that can be found in congregational worship when we surrender ourselves to Him and enter into the throne room. There’s are generations where many Christians were not encouraged to live in intimacy with Christ, and it’s my job as a believer and a leader to give them the tools and space to pursue that. As a leader, I’m the one held accountable for that. And while there’s no such thing as “too young” to know your Father in a deep way, I also firmly believe that there is no such thing as “too old”.
God desires to have genuine, intimate relationship with each of His children and congregational worship is a place where people can learn to discover that. We should go into every service with the desire and expectation of encountering the Holy Spirit and giving others the tools and knowledge needed for them to experience that as well. That is what brings God glory and pleases Him.