Cry night is my favorite…sort of :)

I want you to let your imagination go for a second.

Hands lifted. Voices loud. Emotions charged. Tears streaming down the face.

…what do you think of when you read that last sentence?

If a Justin Bieber concert full of teenage girls comes to mind, you’re not alone. Or how about the conclusion of a This is Us episode? I have barely even seen the show, but my impression of how that show tugs at heart strings would appear to line up with that sentiment.

For a youth worker, that may sound like the last night of a weekend camp during a worship set, frequently coined as “cry night.” And who doesn’t love cry night? It’s a perfect moment of adolescent exhaustion combined with a kick drum hitting you in the chest all the while singing songs about the love of God for you right here, right now. After the session is over, you go into small groups and the tears and tissues are flowing. Jesus moved right?. Clearly! Kids’ lives are changed forever. You can tell because their eyes are puffy and they can barely say a complete sentence behind the rage of sniffles. Your job as a youth worker is complete. 

Camps have been capitalizing on this night as a moment of spiritual significance for teenagers for decades. And while it may seem like I’m being slightly sarcastic, I am completely serious when I say that nothing gets me more excited than that moment at cry night. Or any worship set for that matter.

Here is why:

In addition to being a youth worker, I am also a worship leader. I love (most) modern worship music…songs written with the ostensible purpose of connecting the congregation to the heart of Jesus, putting people right in the presence of the Holy Spirit. A moment where souls often connect for the first time that they are adored by the God who is Love. And when I see students express themselves in worship, singing to the God who has, does, and forever will love them, it’s a concrete sign to me that Jesus is captivating and shaping their lives. It’s incredible. 

And while those moments are special, and I am deeply encouraged as a youth worker and a worship leader when students get after it in worship, I know those moments are simply that. Moments.  

I genuinely do believe that worship music is a powerful tool for people to encounter the living God, but moments of an encounter with Jesus do not reveal a changed life. Moments do not reveal character. Moments do not reveal fruits of the Spirit. Moments do not reveal a life sold out to Jesus. Moments fade away the next day when camp is over, and kids go back to their home towns where the real world gives them different moments to negotiate.  Different moments that sometimes are not inspired, or “spirit led,” or full of love, or point them to Jesus. 

For those worship moments to be anything of significance, something deeper must take root. Not just an emotional high in a worship set (which God still uses), but an identity that is shaped into being a worshiper.  

To be a worshiper is significantly different than engaging in worship. And it is this aspect of spiritual formation that excites me more than anything else. I believe that if we, as youth workers, can point our kids to Jesus and show them what it means to be a worshiper, that would change things. That would make a difference for every moment in a students life, not just the good ones.

For this blog, I will primarily be exploring the identity of the worshiper, and what it could mean for youth workers to develop students as worshipers of Jesus. I’ll be exploring how cultivating students as worshipers could become a significant discipleship strategy in youth ministry. So regardless of how you feel about worship music at all, I want you to join me in this conversation. 

I believe everyone is called to be a worshiper of Jesus, and I’m curious in how that can play out in every aspect of life, with or without music. I would love to hear your thoughts along the way! 

This post was written by one of our AYM contributors, Ben Zuehlsdorff