Monday, April 20, 2009

Cool, Uncool, Old, Too Old...

So I am sitting for my "morning reading" session...if you catch my drift. This morning's grab was "Kurt and Scott's Jr. High Adventure". To me it is the JH youth worker's version of "Uncle John's" (seriously)

I was re-reading the "Uncool is OK" article. If you haven't read it, it was orginally submitted to Group Magazine in 2006, and now republished in the book. To sum it all up, Kurt claming to be "uncool" gives some great suggestions about what is most important and what mean more to students than just being cool, young and hip.

I agree with his points, but that fact is as much as we want to believe it, cool still figures in to the equation. Also as much as we want to close our eyes and wish with all our might, age is a factor too. Maybe not so much for volunteers, but for us who are the lead on-staff person up front -age and coolness is the unwritten rule. Honestly how many 65 year old youth pastors do you see rolling around? Walk around a youth conference how many black socks and sandals and tape on the glasses kind of people do you run into. Some I admit, but come on...

Here is my points (for better or worse):

1. You have to be at least a little cool. I can not count the times a student commented on my clothes, music, and style. I have been introduced as "this is my pastor, he is my parent's age but he is cool, you should see how he dresses. Understand, I can't afford to keep up with every fashion or buy album, but also I am not faking it either. I honestly dress like I dress and I honestly like the music. Our personal kids are not Jr. Highers...yet, but my wife and I are aware of what we wear and what our kids wear. We are also aware of how we act and present ourselves. We don't go to the extremes either, I don't have piercings and tatoos or wear crazy stuff, we just try our best to be "in". You are thinking "UgH- superficial!" We are honestly not superficial people, we rock the outlets and the extreme clearance racks. We understand, how we act, how we dress, what we listen to, etc...allows us more opportunities to teach, reach, and connect. My wife can talk about modesty because we shop at the same place our student's do and wear appropriate things. I can walk up to my students at school or at the mall without thier friends say, "who's dad is that?"
Here is the thought, you dress and act for any job. You work at a construction site, you wear a hard hat- You work on wall street you wear a suit, you know how to act and talk- same with youth ministry.
* Alittle addtional note to the whole cool thing, is also I do my best to drop the "pastor" before my name. I leave it up to the parents and the student. You want to watch a mood of a conversation change, drop the word "pastor".

2. You will be to old for this. I am not as young as I use to be, I am real enough to know that. My "biological youth ministry clock" is ticking. I know that I am suppose to go be an associate pastor or sr. pastor someday, but I honestly don't feel that call. I love middle school and jr. high students. I know in order for me to continue to work full-time and make a living working with MS/JH students I will have to go work somewhere else. Personal experience and observation I have painfully watched the guys who have held on for too long. They never transitioned out, got the educaiton to something else, or just plain didn't get it. Also the reality is the big names and living legend are no longer really "doing it". Case and Point-Doug Fields still writes the books and has the title, but someone else is doing the teach and ministry with students.

Do I think this is right? Kind or but not really. It is just the nature of the beast. We are missionaries to this culture. You wouldn't show up in the middle of the jungle in a suit and tie and speak proper English then get mad at the tribal people for thinking you were an outsider. If you are called to and your heart is to minister to a certain group of people you learn the culture, language, dress and style and that becomes yours as well. The mission field we work in is a "culture of cool and young". You have to know your audience to reach your audience.

-reference helps: "merchants of cool" (pbs documentary), "trendcentral", "youthtrends", "tween marketers", "mr. youth"

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