Having only been a CIY employee for two months, this was my first opportunity to attend an event as a member of the CIY team. The Cox Business Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma is a great place with a huge, wide open room. I’m sure the creative minds of Believe have fun with these spaces in the same ways an artist looks at a blank canvas.
The painting I’d imagined in my mind of what the event would be like was at first on point, but it didn’t take long for God to show me some "Wow" moments that I hadn’t expected.
The event had a turnout of 1,580 Jr. high students and youth leaders for this stop on the “WITH” tour, which continues throughout the spring. It felt similar to many school functions most of us would be familiar with – kids playing Nine Square, kicking around hacky sacks and talking excitedly amongst themselves. But the first programmed moment of Believe shook me out of that familiarity in the best of ways, and it kicks off my top five “Wow” moments:
5. Before every main session, the Believe team changes the mood of the room by lowering the lights and switching the house music to a song with a beat that you can feel in your chest. Though this is impactful every time, the first time it happened was particularly stunning for me. As if on cue, the kids made a mad dash to the edge of the stage. As the clock on the screen counted down, the students counted down with it – ticking off the seconds to the start of Believe. “Three! Two! ONE!”
My heart flooded with warmth as I tried to wrap my mind around the potential impact that was about to go out into the world.
4. Praise and worship is celebrated like a live concert – complete with beach balls that almost touch the ceiling. The band, singer Merci Neff and the Kalied Dance Crew rock that stage, and the kids love every second of it. They respond mostly by non-stop jumping with hands in the air. As I watched, I couldn’t help but be struck with the impression that this was a perfect demonstration of the church unified through a love of music and a passion for Jesus.
3. Believe is exceptional in its play/learn/grow rhythm – students and their adult leaders have fun, hear the Gospel and pray together. One of the greatest scenes I saw was during a break: a leader was playing the “Ninja” game with his youth group, fully invested in his role as a martial artist and channeling his inner Bruce Lee. I think part of connecting to Jr. high students is that you need to become like a Jr. higher yourself.
2. The way the speakers at Believe connect with a Jr. high audience is impressive … and it connected with me, too. Robert Watson (teaching pastor at Sun Valley Community Church in Arizona) was the main speaker at the Tulsa event. I so enjoyed his talent in speaking with excellent metaphors that related the message to Jr. high minds. I was particularly engaged when during one session he infuriated the audience by destroying their little play dough creations. He used the experience to drive home a key point about sin, but I couldn’t help but join the students on the emotional roller-coaster he created – from vexed to enlightened.
1.Wrapping up a Believe experience at the end of the last main session is quite literally nothing short of awesome. Nothing could have prepared me for the end of Believe. After a weekend of worship, prayer, learning and inspiration, the students are presented with a Kingdom worker challenge. The room is so quiet during this moment that you can hear their footsteps over the soft music being played from stage. They whisper their hopes to each other, write down their commitments and give their ideas to their youth leaders. It’s hard for me to describe the overwhelming sensation I felt. My heart flooded with warmth as I tried to wrap my mind around the potential impact that was about to go out into the world. All those kids talking about Kingdom work they felt led to do back home, and the ripple effect that would happen from those acts of love … it’s overwhelming to think about. And this is just one program on one stop of a 12-city tour. How many thousands of Jr. high students are going out into the world, challenged to live as Kingdom workers because of Believe? It’s astonishing to think about.
I know my heart belongs to God because He broke it this past weekend. And I know He’ll do it again when I experience more CIY events, because I also know He’s going to do amazing things WITH these young Kingdom workers.
Becca Haines is a communications coordinator for Christ In Youth.