At Passport last week in Wingate, North Carolina, I was struck by how often our youth expressed appreciation for the worship. This was not a canned response to being asked, “What did you think about tonight’s worship?” The comments were made throughout the week, and were completely spontaneous and voluntary. At the very least, I think it says something about a reverence in worship that we might not always recognize in our kids.
Here’s another thing that got my attention. The camp pastor, Chris Hughes–a recent graduate of Wake Forest School of Divinity–was fun-loving, but very serious about preaching the Gospel. His sermons were surprisingly long, at least five minutes longer than one of my typical sermons. And the kids did not seem to mind at all!
Part of that, I think, was because Chris was excellent. And, the overall worship was so compelling. I’d like to tell you about just one feature of one of the worship services. As we arrived for the service that night, it was impossible not to notice several large blackboards stretched across the front. Members of the Passport staff had written simple prayers on the blackboards, “I pray for______.” Most of the space on the blackboards was empty, and near the end of the service, everyone went to the front, one row at a time, and wrote a prayer. By the time we were finished, the blackboards were completely full of prayers, most of them written by youth.
Try to imagine that visual.
I hung around at the front after the service, and I was not the only one. The front of the worship space had been transformed into a holy place. No one spoke. It was not the time or the place for conversation. I have been in a lot of worship services, as have most of you, but I’ve never experienced more a sense of deep quiet and reverence than during and after the writing of those prayers.
One of the staff had written: “I pray for the bullied.” These words were by themselves on the large blackboard. After dozens of prayers had filled it up, I walked past and saw that one of the kids had written below: “And the bully.”
It felt like Jesus had shown up.