Are you worried about being cool or relevant in order to reach students today?
I run into this every year when I see new interns or bible college students. They truly think that in order to reach teenagers today you need to be dripping in coolness. Each year, I am able to break down that barrier that I personally think is distracting students from Christ.
In the past 10 years in youth ministry I have had the awesome privilege of taking students to retreats. Each year it was interesting to see the students interact with different camp speakers. It was always encouraging to hear how God has impacted the students, but some years the talk about the speaker was more about how cool they were instead of what they actually said. Comments like, “he had cool shoes”, or “he had cool stories” make me question how focused we have become on striving for cool. Personally, If I was to pick a camp speaker, it would be about how much that person loves Jesus, and is a captivating speaker who preaches out of the Gospels more that being cool.
Recently I talked to a veteran youth worker who had a few insights on youth pastors who strive for cool. Here they are:
1. Find identity in Christ, and not in students we lead. You don’t need to be the students best friends. The students already have friends, what they really need is someone to lead them, and point them to Jesus. I have met tons of youth pastors who need to be best friends with every student in the ministry.
2. Use uncool adult leaders. I didn’t do this in my old ministry, and I paid for it dearly. Adults have so much insight, and wisdom. I need more adult leaders who aren’t parents of students in ministry. I recently had a parent want to help, and I threw her into the pit of leadership. We will train her on the go, but we need adults who have walked through the teen/young adult years.
3. You will become uncool…just wait. I will never forget the day I bought a minivan. That is the day I became uncool, and I am ok with that. Honestly, my family is just more important. Coolness will fade away trust me. So, don’t rely on it too much. Be confident in who you are, and what you are called to do!
4. Constantly follow Christ! More than anything the students that you work with want someone to help them in this crazy journey through high school. Read the Bible, spend time each day praying for students, or even pray through your facebook group/page. Instead of worrying about being cool, be with Christ, that will be enough.