Mom Jeans and the World of Worship
Growing older is a gift that not everyone receives in this life.
Every once in a while I am reminded of my age, maybe through a Facebook Timeline pic, or a not-so-funny comment by a colleague. I am often reminded that many worship leaders my age are transitioning to other ministry positions, such as lead pastor, etc. And when I look in the mirror, I fight against the comparison that I do not look as cool as younger worship leaders in their skinny jeans and knit hats.
This weekend my friends and I had the opportunity to lead worship at an InterVarsity conference in Lansing. Although everyone on my team was younger than me, I wondered how the college students would react to us, especially how they would react to this “mother” being on stage.
I remember years ago listening to apologist Josh McDowell share how he felt that he became more effective in campus ministry the older he got. (My good friend Lena Shrader once shared that truth with me as well.) Mr. McDowell realized that young adults were looking for a father, and as he continued to age, a grandfather.
Although I remember agreeing with Mr. McDowell’s words, I did not know if this would hold true for the worship world. Many churches go for younger worship leaders and younger worship teams. I have been told that younger people on stage draw in younger crowds. I get that….to an extent. If we’re wanting to attract people to your churches and statistics show that younger, hip worship teams draw people, then I can see why we would make those changes. I've even heard this statement in the prayer movement world. I’m not saying I’m comfortable with that philosophy, but I can definitely understand the reasoning behind it.
I know that one church in our city some years back sent out a letter to its older worship team members telling them that they were dismissed from the team because of their age. True story! And a person I knew that this had happened to was still in prime voice.
So, back to this weekend filled with jumping, dancing, prophetic declaration, soaring electric guitar riffs, powerful drumming, rap, words of knowledge, breakthrough prayer, and singing. I witnessed 400+ college students engage in worship and praise, with about a third of them wrapped around the front of the stage. It’s been a couple of days since our last worship set and I’ve been thinking about how much fun we had and how connected the students seemed with our band. Our band was multigenerational (I was the oldest) and we purposely chose songs and styles that would connect with the students. And yet, in the middle of it all, there I was, this obviously 40 something mother (sporting my “mom” jeans) leading the charge. Perhaps they needed to see a mother on stage dancing before the Lord, prophesying their God-ordained destinies, and choosing to pour herself out as a drink offering. Maybe it’s not the age that matters as much as how hard we burn. And I don’t mean how busy we stay….I mean how hard we burn with passion for the Lord.
Age didn’t stop an 80 year old Moses from leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Age did not stop the elderly Apostle John from receiving one for the greatest revelations known to humankind on the island of Patmos. Age did not stop Charles Finney from preaching the gospel during the Second Great Awakening. Age did not stop Mother Teresa from continuing to minster to the poor of Calcutta (and calling government leaders on the carpet) well into her golden years. And we’ve just recently seen how Billy Graham preached the gospel until the Lord finally took him home at the age of 99.
I think about how confident I was as a 20 something in campus ministry…..and yet how little I truly knew. Now, in my mid 40s, after years of pruning, pressure, and encounter, I am convinced that the little I do know is a gift and directly related to His grace.
Maybe Generation Z needs burning mothers and fathers who aren’t afraid of looking silly and dancing before the Lord. Maybe Millennials need mothers and fathers who have emerged from some horrendous storms with scars, but also deeper humility, wisdom and supernatural joy. Maybe the youth of today need to know mothers and fathers who can call down heaven with their intercession. Maybe my children need to see (and thankfully do see) church mothers and fathers who quietly and consistently serve, provide rides, and open up their homes to people in need…..and all because their Savior has taught them how to love.
Am I totally comfortable with aging? No, not yet at least. But I’m beginning to understand that age is a gift…..and it’s not necessarily just a gift for me and my family. My age is a gift to those around me, to the congregations I lead in worship, and to the young adults I mentor. Age does not make me obsolete; age gives weight to my voice and compassion to my words.
And for those of you that will read this who trump me by one or two generations, I wrote this especially for you. YOU matter. Your voice is necessary. Your love is needed. And your wisdom is exactly what we crave in this hour. Please continue to pray. Please continue to lead. Please continue to model and preach the Word. Please continue to share your stories. We need you. Each and every one of you. We are listening. We are watching. We are learning.