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Why The Pursuit of "Cool" Hurts Your Youth Ministry

Why The Pursuit of "Cool" Hurts Your Youth Ministry

"Relevant" is certainly a buzzword in youth ministry circles.

It seems that many youth ministers constantly focus on the next trend to embrace, seeking to appear cool and relevant to students. They study youth culture, not to become informed about what students are dealing with, but to chase an ever-evolving state of relevance. Once they've "become relevant," they expect to see students racing to their youth groups in order to be a part of the coolest student ministry in town!

Of course, we know this isn't necessarily, or maybe ever, the case. Being "cool" rarely attracts students. And the reality is that very few of us youth ministers fall into the mold of the "super-cool." So the question is, "Is it possible to be effective in youth ministry while failing to be the king or queen of cool?" I believe that it is. You see, most students have many friends, yet few mentors. Your students may not necessarily need another BFF in the mold of their other friends. But what most students need is a meaningful relationship with a"non-parent" adult, someone who cares about them and is willing to take the time to invest in them. This person is not an adult "disguised" as a teenager trying to chase relevance.

Many students simply don't have an adult in their life who truly cares about them and wants them to grow to become the person that God is calling them to become.

As a youth worker, you have the opportunity to be that adult in the life of your students. But it's hard to be the mentor we need to be when our focus is on the appearance of being cool. When our attempts to maintain cultural relevance end up leading us to essentially become just another student in the group, we lose some of our potential to make an impact in the life of our students.

As youth ministers and youth workers, I believe we need to stop focusing so much on coolness and instead strive for authenticity.

Your student ministry should be a place where it is free for students to be themselves. You give your students this freedom when you are willing to go first, dropping the mask to show the true you. Your youth group should be the place where the masks come off. Students should feel free to be who they are whether they fit in a specific cultural group, or no culture at all. Your youth group's role as the Body of Christ should be to embrace all students. After all, it may be the only place where they can be accepted.

Will you be the youth minister or youth worker who stops trying to build your ministry around your personal "coolness," and instead embraces authenticity? Students are hurting. They need a place where they can be themselves.

In a world of many fractured families, will students in your community find a family of true acceptance in your student ministry?

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