As I’ve mentioned a few times, my dad is starting a church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. In addition to helping him think through his blog and planning some sort of Stuff Christians Like event there this fall, I’ve also started to analyze all the critical pieces a church needs to have in place—like a youth group.
Now granted, if your mission field is retirement communities in Florida, then you probably don’t need a thriving youth ministry. You need a rascal ministry, the little scooter that I plan on owning as soon as I hit my 70s. (Have you seen that commercial? The lady drives it to the edge of the Grand Canyon and then yells at it. Is there an elderly person in the world that’s ever said, “I need some sort of scooter device with a ridiculous turning radius that can quickly deliver me to the precipice of national landmarks?”)
In addition to a wicked cool youth group room, which I laid out in detail in the Stuff Christians Like book, after reading Tyler Stanton’s “Essential Cast of a Mission Trip,” I realized there are 11 teenagers every youth group needs to be successful:
1. The guy that owns a Jeep.
When I was in high school I rotated between hating this guy and desperately wanting to be this guy. I don’t know how he got it but when I was getting dropped off by my mom in a blue Dodge Grand Caravan (wood paneling sides holla!) this guy was screaming into the parking lot in a rugged looking Jeep. I don’t care who you are, having a Jeep in high school is like having a space shuttle. Girls love the Jeep guy.
2. The kid that hates God but got forced to attend because of her parents.
Don’t try to get this girl to play any youth group games, speak up during discussions or not kick the bucket of orange drink over when no one is looking. Ugh! I wouldn’t even be here but my parents keep making me come. As soon as this girl gets her driver’s license you’ll never see her again. Or she’ll become a Christian in what is a really touching transformation process. This one could go both ways.
3. The ridiculously beautiful girl that doesn’t know it.
This girl is a lot of fun right up until the moment that you go to a camp or event where other youth groups are gathered and every guy in the tri-county region hits on her. Even though you’re not dating her and she’s told you the dreaded “you’re like a brother to me” there’s a part of you that thinks, “I wish all those guys from that other church would stop bothering Kim.” (And by bothering I mean, “making her laugh and have a good time” two things that you are apparently incapable of.)
4. One obnoxious pastor’s kid that thinks he’s a celebrity.
I need to do a whole post on pastor’s kids, but for now, let me just say that every youth group needs one who kind of thinks he’s a celebrity. He’s contextually famous, which just means a handful of people know who he is because his dad is the pastor but sometimes he acts like he’s some sort of superstar. His name may or may not have been Jon Acuff.
5. The kid that wears shorts in the winter.
You could also call this kid “the contrarian” because when everyone else zigs, he’s going to zag. Growing up in Massachusetts, there was always at least one kid that would wear shorts during the winter. It would be 10 degrees outside, he’d have a coat on and a pair of basketball shorts. Makes no sense, but then I shaved a stripe into my eyebrow a la Vanilla Ice when I was in the 9th grade so what do I know?
6. The guy that somehow got ordained at the age of 13.
You need at least one “mini-pastor” in training. The junior high doesn’t offer seminary classes, but for some reason, this guy has a deep theological understanding of all things Bible. He’s not going to be the best person to take on a late night youth group prank, but he’s going to be awesome at helping you find Biblical reasons to support why the town should forgive you for that prank.
7. The group of people you’ll talk to at youth group but pretend you don’t know at school.
I think teenagers today are more secure than I was but back in the day, there were definitely, “youth group friends” and “in the hallway at school” friends. And when they accidentally collided together before math class it was always kind of a sweaty experience. We used to have a Bible study before school when I was a freshman and we’d all walk together to our first class and then immediately when we touched our feet onto school property we scattered in the halls like acne covered marbles that didn’t know each other. Good times.
8. That dude with an acoustic guitar.
You know who you are. Stop.
9. The guy whose girlfriend goes to church, so he’s there too.
Save your PDA message for this guy, but realize that if they break up, there’s an 82% chance you’ll never see him again.
10. The cool kids from school that come to youth group for a brief period of time.
Maybe your youth group will never experience this strange phenomenon but when mine did, it was awesome. Out of nowhere someone pretty or cool decided that our church youth group was pretty or cool and started bringing all the popular kids. For about a year, youth group was amazing. Then the popular kids faded, in part due to the “Pizza Blast incident” and a wave of dorkiness spread across our youth group like a dark cloud climbing the coast of New England.
11. The kid that farts all the time.
Hate this kid. Hate getting placed on the same retreat van with him. Hate getting placed in the same cabin with him. Hate sitting near him at youth group. Still thought he was kind of funny though.
Who did I miss? It’s been 15 years since I was in youth group and I’ve probably grown out of touch and perhaps even a little rickety. Might be a storm a comin’ soon, my knee is acting up. Bring the rascal in, she hates to get wet.
What youth group stereotype did I forget?