Yesterday I helped drive around 30 Senior High students to camp, then turned around and helped drive around 30 Junior High students home from camp. All total, I got to spend between 5-6 hours with teenagers. It’s been a while since I had that much concentrated time with that many students. As a pastor who leads a church and a parent who will probably have teens soon (Come Lord Jesus!), I made a couple of observations and offer a couple of challenges:
1. Brady and Katy have it goin’ on.
For those of you who aren’t members of FBC, I am referring to the Canright’s. Brady is our Associate Pastor of Students and Katy is – you guessed it – his lovely wife. We are a better and healthier church because they are here. I could not do what they do. I am not that tough, don’t like to stay up late at night, and sure don’t like to be punched in weird places or pranked at weird times by Junior Highers. In fact, the reality that God called me out of youth ministry and into the pastorate causes me to well up with a spirit of unquenchable gratefulness.
Brady and Katy love the students, are a GREAT team, and are deeply burdened for the students to love and follow Jesus. Last I checked – students need to be loved, need to see a husband and wife team modeled, and need Jesus. Win.
Challenge: Thank, pray for, encourage, and volunteer to serve alongside the Canright’s. You’ll be glad you did.
2. Teenagers don’t like change either.
On the way to the camp – I drove the van carrying Juniors and Seniors. Most (if not all) of ’em had been going to the same camp since they started the youth group. They weren’t going because they had to either. They were going because they didn’t even want to think about doing something else OR considering another camp. This camp has been doing basically the same format every year and these students LOVE it. They liked the familiar. They liked . . . same.
Challenge: NOBODY likes change. Before changing anything – do your homework and make sure it’s the right thing to do. When change is necessary, proceed carefully.
3. If it’s worth it, they will come.
I mentioned in #2 that the 11th and 12th graders keep coming back to this camp. Three students were seniors who had already graduated – BUT WANTED TO GO ONE LAST TIME!!! Are you kidding? No, I’m not.
Why? Because it was worth it to them. It was done well. It was done right. It added value to their lives. It was a win for them.
Challenge: As a church leader, providing an atmosphere of excellence with a goal of adding value to people’s lives is a must. Halfheartedly throwing something together won’t last. People – especially teenagers – can smell halfhearted efforts a mile away. People appreciate excellence and care and will reward it with their fully engaged presence.
As a parent, what kind of atmosphere are you providing it home? Is it worth it to them to come back?
4. I’m gonna buy major stock in Axe.
I was nervous about the ride home. Junior High guys who hadn’t been forced by mommy to take a shower in 3 days. I was thinkin’ windows down all the way home. Wrong. The guys told me they showered 3 times a day. They smelt like the toiletry section at Wal-Mart. I was pleased. . . and convicted that I don’t take that many showers per day.
Challenge: Save up some cash to buy stock in Junior High boy ‘smell good’ products. If the ‘3 shower a day’ trend continues, I could be a millionaire.
Teenagers want to connect. They need to connect. They thrive on connection. They want others in their lives – younger, same age, older – that will connect with them, relate to them, care for them, and make them laugh. How do I know that? Two words: Cell. Phone.
The oldest teenagers attending camp were born in 1995. Yeah. The year yours truly graduated high school. Guess what? They’ve never NOT known the internet. Feel old yet? Me too.
Teenagers aren’t disengaged at all. No, no. They are fully engaged and totally connected – to more people than we can imagine. They have a HUGE need to connect and are finding the need met through social media. Is some of it bad? Sure it is. But not all of it. It can be really, really good.
Challenge: Social media and technology ain’t goin’ nowhere. In fact, it will only become more prevalent. To stay connected, I/we must be connected in ways that connects with them. Make sense? Church leaders nor parents need to just ‘pull the covers over our heads’ and pretend it’s not happnin’. It’s happnin’ and will continue too. We have to get on board and rethink and rethink and rethink and rethink time and time again.
#6. Where the Boys at?
Yeah. Not many boys. Whole bunch of girls. That scares me. I am glad the girls are there and hope for more. But the dearth of boys is strangely similar to . . . our church buildings on Sunday. I so hope they aren’t [SOAP BOX ALERT!] sitting at home playing Playstation right now or asleep because of the movies they watched all night last night. And I really pray they aren’t doing these things because they told their mommy they just didn’t want to go to camp this year. I fear we are raising a bunch of sissies who will have NO idea what it means to be a man. [SOAP BOX OVER!]
Challenge: Biblical manhood MUST be embraced and taught and modeled and challenged over and over and over and over again at home and in our churches. It is NOT an option.
Those are my brief observations. Where am I wrong? What observations are you making and challenges you can issue to make us pastors and parents better?