Stirring My Affections For God

“Junior high and high school are significant times in a kid’s life, and worship can play a big part in helping them understand the Lord’s unconditional love and grace. Watching that happen is the most awesome thing I could ever be part of.” – Hayden Browning

“I was that crazy, unfocused kid who could never sit down,” said Hayden Browning. “I grew up in church and learned about the Lord early in life, but reading the Bible was hard for me because I was so active. The Lord stirred my affections for Him through listening to music. I think that’s why I’m passionate about leading worship for students today.

“I grew up playing sports – baseball, soccer, basketball, etc. But when I was in high school, my dad made the decision that I should stop playing basketball and focus on music. I was pretty resentful about it because there wasn’t any discussion about the decision. But looking back it was a wise choice on his part. Music was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

“I started leading worship for our student ministry in Ohio when I was in 7th grade. My voice had not changed yet, so I probably sounded like a little girl up there on stage. But until that point there hadn’t been anything in my life that I absolutely loved doing. Worship became the thing I wanted to focus on and grow in. God put some incredible guys in my life who invested a lot of time pouring into me, whether it was about music or becoming a godly man.

“Once I made the decision to truly follow Christ, God was so faithful to put guys in my life who were instrumental in shaping my faith. One of those men really influenced my choice of colleges. When I decided to go to a small Christian school in Ohio rather than Ohio State, I knew I would have to pay for my own tuition. That was the first time that I had to trust and rely on God for a big decision. I ended up being in a worship band and playing at camps, churches and retreats throughout my time at school.

“As I continued to play music, it seemed clear that this was what God was calling me to do with my life. After college I got an offer to come on staff at another church in the Dallas area. I never in my life thought I would move to Texas, nor did I anticipate how lonely and difficult that season would be. I had not lived far away from my family before, and I missed them a lot. At my new job, I was asked to lead a church choir and an orchestra, and I didn’t really know how to do either. Some of my other friends were touring in a band and filling up arenas, and I was spending my days in an office copying orchestra music.

“I really struggled with why God would call me there. If I was exactly where God wanted me, shouldn’t I be happy? Through reading both John 3:30 and Proverbs 3:5-6, I learned that life is not about me. I needed to learn how to lean on the Lord for understanding rather than myself during difficult times. That was so important.

“My girlfriend, Lauren, who I married in 2014, moved to Dallas about that time and started working as a Young Life leader at Berkner High School. I knew I wanted to marry her, but wasn’t sure I was in the best place personally to build a healthy marriage. About that time, I got connected with guys from Watermark Student Ministries. They were looking for someone to do music for students. I felt like Watermark was a great place where my gifts could be used and where we could build the community we needed to start off our marriage.

“Lauren and I married in 2014 and joined a Foundation Group with other couples who had just gotten married. I didn’t know how to be married, and we wanted to be around other people our age who were figuring out this life stage as well. Over and over again in community, I have been reminded of God’s faithfulness to us. Whether it was my dad making me quit the basketball team or moving to a state where I knew nobody, God was at work in really big ways. I know now that God doesn’t call me to an easy life. He calls me to be faithful at all times, even when it is hard. It’s cool to look back at that time in my life and see all the Lord was really doing.

“God’s faithfulness is what gives me a heart for leading students in worship. There are so many things that high school kids could be doing with their time. So seeing them worship with reckless abandon is one of the coolest things ever. There’s an energy and excitement in their worship that sometimes is lacking among adults. God has been so faithful to bring the leaders needed to make Watermark’s Student Ministry so excellent. Junior high and high school are significant times in a kid’s life, and worship can play a big part in helping them understand the Lord’s unconditional love and grace. Watching that happen is the most awesome thing I could ever be part of.”

If you have a heart for pointing teenagers to Christ and would like to partner with us in ministry, we always have a place for passionate, committed people. Contact Anne Marie Mason (Amason@watermark.org) and let us know if you’re interested!

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