Tough Crowd

My entire team hadn’t even scurried off the stage when I heard the words whispered behind the backstage curtains. I had already braced myself for them.

“Man, tough crowd tonight.”

On the surface they were right. It was a tough crowd. Have you ever tried to lead worship for 12-14 year olds who just literally have NO IDEA WHAT LIFE IS. I mean, it’s just an experience of its own. The mass chaos and judging you see happening makes it easy to dismiss or disregard what’s really going on besides the surface, circus-like events. It’s like one big ball of people who have no idea what to do at the same time. WILD. Sometimes I think I should have a gopro hidden somewhere on the stage, so people can see the millions of eye rolls and stares and winks and waves and awkward moves and incessant chatter and best of all – the beautiful worship when for about 5.2 seconds they are calm and realize Jesus is there for them. That 5.2 seconds is worth it all though. There is nothing like

We can never judge the effectiveness of a worship service by the connection we feel with the crowd. We will want too and there were times, I did…and do. But, we don’t worship for the crowd, we worship because it drastically affects the crowd.

I gathered my team and we took a few minutes to debrief the comments and feelings. I remember many a times having the same thought when I first started leading worship. I love our current days of fast growth. New services mean lots of spots to fill with new people who can use their gifts and develop them for the first time. Lots of fresh souls, wrong chords, missed notes, and beautiful worship is coming from this season. We are reminded that in a constant state of “Oh Lord I really hope you will love this less than perfect worship” that he does indeed obsessively love the imperfectly perfect song we are singing to him. It’s easy to forget his presence has never been contingent upon our perfection.

I love how our new singers and band members are getting to be plugged into a purpose that’s so very hard to explain, but yet is life changing when experienced. There’s nothing like being the church. It is our mandate and purpose, so it’s no surprise the sense of fulfillment that comes from it. You know that deep fulfillment we all crave – the one we’re searching to find to feel like we have meaning and a place in the midst of the craziness of life?? Seeing these teenagers, college kids and adults who are serving on this team grasp this is my favorite experience as a leader. It’s what changed the course of my life. Everything just falls so short when your life is awake to what God has for you and how he can move through you.

As I looked at my team and all their new faces, I could see a little bit of disappointment. Had they done something wrong? Were they merely babysitting the 12-14 years olds who just danced and awkwardly stared at them? Did anyone even worship?

Junior High ministry is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the most fierce, in fact. It’s for the strongest, clearest, and funnest. It’s for the people who don’t flinch in the face of being judged by a 12 year old – cause – they – will – judge. And you will find your almost adult self battling with the annoyance that you care, but don’t want to, but for like 5 seconds really did maybe care that the 12 year old eye rolled you so hard.

These services are for the truth tellers and the warriors who aren’t afraid to stare at the oncoming train that is bombarding these little souls with the heaviest of life choices. You know the number 1 thing I hear people tell me in their 20’s when they are overcoming their past….brace yourself for it.

Renee, No one told me. I just didn’t know…

I didn’t know that choice mattered or I mattered or I was playing with fire.

When I was 12, I spent all day playing outside, my imagination running wild, played sports, and was blissfully unaware of so many pressures these kids face. I was getting familiar with my ever changing body, but didn’t feel judged by the world. Life was different. Truthfully, my heart breaks for them – it’s not an easy world. My soul cringes every time it hears those words… “no one told me”

God’s goodness knows no end though. For a such a time as this were these souls crafted and dropped into this world. That means they were made for this. They were made for this life (er, I say battle). This means the level of pressure they face doesn’t even come close to the level of the presence of God they have access too. We are raising warriors like the world has yet to see.

As leaders, we can gauge our effectiveness off of the connection of the crowd OR  if we did what God called us to do that night. I shared with my team, we are called to get on that stage and worship with our whole hearts and tell the story of truth to these souls. Because hearing “No one told me”, well that’s just not sufficient anymore.

They are not too young to be captivated by God. They are not too young to be safely planted in a house to protect their hearts and minds. They are not too young to learn to recognize the presence of God and they are not too young to be used by God.

Tonight wasn’t a tough crowd, it was a fierce enemy. We showed up, so did he. If we forget our role and place then we lose our battle cry. Those distracted, energy-filled, souls are not our enemy, they are our pursuit. The devil is our enemy. This is a battle and you, my dear, have a role. Singing or playing an instrument is your cover, but it is not what you are really doing.

Can you think of a better time to realize God’s love for you than  your junior high years?

Can you imagine a better life than one that has found its purpose before the enemy has stolen, rewired, and repositioned that little life?

Can you imagine a more powerful high schooler or college student than the one who was safe guarded from the schemes of the enemy and has tasted true satisfaction and shown the temptations of this world will pale in comparison to life with Jesus?

Well, I cannot.

Because 12 year olds turn into 15 years old in the blink of an eye who will head off to college before you know it and become the people we dine with and laugh with or the ones we mourn for…you know, because life was unfair to them and took over them.

Not on our watch, no sir. We will place value on their today. We will call them out for who they are called to be. If we don’t someone else will. Silence will NOT be our battle move.

That’s why we don’t say tough crowd, we commit to pray more. We seek heaven for them. We pursue their hearts. We don’t babysit, we facilitate. We recognize potential and purpose and we take our place and don’t budge. We don’t budge till they see how Jesus loves them. We are not afraid of the realities they face (well, sometimes I am actually semi-afraid). We will speak life and truth and love. We will show value. We will call the dead to life inside of them. We will help shape them to expect Jesus to show up when they call on him. We will show them life with Jesus is the best life, because it actually is. We will teach them in their deepest and darkest hour, Jesus loves them and is with them and they are not called to carry the cloak of shame and guilt. We will shout that we serve a God who heals and redeems all that has been taken from them.

Junior high is not too young to be broken and wounded and that is why is it not too young to encounter the creator and healer. It isn’t too young to have been raised without family and that’s why it isn’t too young to be placed into one. It isn’t too young to have been abused and never provided real counsel and that is why it isn’t too young to find healing. It isn’t too young to be told sex is casual and what is expected of them and it isn’t to young to discover Jesus made no mistakes in how he designed and purposed love and intimacy to be. It isn’t too young to be devalued and it isn’t too young to be commissioned. That is why we (the church) have to show up with more than a song on our lips, we have to show up to be on their team!

Heaven help us if we only show up to babysit. These souls don’t need babysitters. They need warriors.

I could see my team’s perspective shifting. Their eyes brightened by the purpose they have in the role they fill. Even amongst wrong chords and notes and missed parts, they are still fighting. How beautiful is it we all have a place?

If we think we’re showing up to pass a paper or serve a coffee cup, then that is really all we will do. But, oh what life-changing joy we forgo when we forget who we are and what we have access too.

So, sing on you,  junior highers! Eye roll us, chat it up, dance and sing blissfully unaware of what’s going on, cause it only takes one moment in Jesus’ presence and everything changes. And your moment is on its way…we’re going to make sure of it!

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