Repeat After Me, “I Am Not Cool!”

Cool, in my opinion, is highly overrated. In fact, one of the best lessons I ever learned (as a 21 year old public school teacher) was that I was not cool. The mistake I made was that I thought my age at the time would make me relevant to high school students and win their respect as a result. In fact, the opposite occurred. You see, being seen as a peer is not always the best leadership philosophy. Now that may seem pretty immature to you, and it was, but it’s a mistake made all too commonly.

In youth ministry, one of the common ideas I hear expressed is that churches and teens need someone young to work with the students, to win their respect. I disagree. Students don’t always need another friend; they need someone who will challenge them to become more like Jesus. They need wisdom and accountability along with relationship. They need authenticity and not an act, a show to make oneself “relevant.” Actually that word scares me a little. Will I be relevant if I wear an Ed Hardy shirt and sport a faux hawk? If that’s what it takes, call me Mr. Irrelevant J.

Now if that last sentence describes you, no worries. I’m only advocating against trying to be something you’re not in order to work with young people. I want the young adults working with teens out there to stop relying on image and concentrate on substance when they work with youth. And to those “older” youth workers, don’t be afraid that teens are talking about your choice of shirt or shoes! It’s even ok if you don’t have an IPad, you may still qualify to work with youth!

Relationship in the Body of Christ is so much deeper than our outer appearance. I’m seeing a growing number of adults who are realizing this and are working with youth well past their 40’s, 50’s, and beyond. Some youth pastors are even referring to themselves as “lifers” indicating a felt call to work with young people for the life of their ministry.

What about you? Is God calling you to establish the next generation in His Word?


Ritchie Johnson
Director, Transform Student Ministries


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