Kids These Days


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?


6 thoughts on “Kids These Days

  1. Ilene Harral says:

    Our church is so blessed to have Brady and Katy. The FBC kids are fortunate to have such a good leader as Brady and an example with Katy of the beauty of love and marriage. The Canrights are what Galatians 5:22 describes as “the fruit of the spirit.”

  2. Talitha Putnam Culver says:

    Matt, I am a friend of your mother’s from Jr. High days. I currently live in Auburn and was a member of LBC when you were. Sorry I didn’t know you then, but I digress…I’ve been lurking on your blog for several months and I just want to encourage you and tellbyou how much I have enjoyed it. I love your heart for your church, your family and the lost. You are a young man of wisdom and compassion. Keep it up. You are blessing me.

    • Thanks for your encouraging words, Talitha. I hate I did not know you while at Auburn (War Eagle! by the way). I appreciate your words. Thanks for reading and tell my mom I said hi! 🙂

  3. Libby Kloap says:

    Brady and Katy are AWESOME! The more I get to know them, the more I see their wisdom and discernment that is far beyond their years! They both have a special gift from God to work with young people! I am soooo looking forward to going to South Africa with them!! I know the Lord is going to show Himself to us and through us!

  4. Becky and Johnny says:

    Dear Pastor Matt,
    You have brought up some very interesting thoughts! I hope I can explain in a few words to you our story!
    About a million years ago (actually 1957), Johnny and I had been married about a year and were members of First Presbyterian in Borger, Texas. We were called to be “advisors” to a group of 7th and 8th graders who had run off everyone else!! At our first meeting, we encountered a very lively group of about eight boys who had also managed to get rid of any girls who had been members of the group. We met with the former leader of the group, and he gave us some very interesting materials that he had attempted to use in his teaching efforts. He told us he had failed in his efforts to even get the boys to listen, as he tried to share the lessons with them.
    Johnny and I were terrified at the first meeting, and just shared with them that we wanted to get to know each of them and we were not going to teach them; but we knew that they might want to “teach” us!
    We divided the group where each boy had a partner to plan a “lesson”, and a time to lead the group. We also told them that we wanted to have some fun with them during our times together. We learned so much from those boys, and they learned what it was like to try to give a thought when others kept interrupting!
    To make a long story short, soon the girls returned to the group; and we shared so many good retreats, camps and fun with them! Those “kids” are now in their 60’s, and I know they have shared their love of Jesus with their families through the years!
    We served as youth (7th and 8th) leaders throughout the next 25 years, while also raising our family of two adopted children and two who have inherited some of our looks and ways!? We also now have six grandchildren ages fourteen down to eight. They still love hugs, games, reading, talking, crafts, and traveling!
    When they walk into our home, each of them is usually carrying the latest I-pod or game machine. Within two hours, they have the dominoes, rock game, bingo, and our tattered collection of Uno cards etc!
    They love to go camping, fishing, and swimming–anything outside! Dirtier, the better!
    All of them are Christians–YES!
    We are so thankful for Brady and Katy, and the parents and folks who share in all the activities they have going!
    May God continue to bless our church here in El Dorado!
    In His Love,
    Becky and Johnny Isbell

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