Growing up one of the things I was most concerned with was fitting in.
I wanted people to like me and was willing to dress, talk and/or act like them to make it happen.
Being cool was a big deal to me.
Not being cool wasn’t an option.
My own opinions took a backseat to the opinions of the cool people I wanted to be like.
I suppose this is all fairly normal for kids growing up, but the problem was it didn’t stop for me.
Through college and into my first few years as a real-life youth pastor I was still trying to be cool.
How would my students understand the message of grace and forgiveness unless they realized it was coming from a cool person?
So again I tried. I named my teaching series and youth camps after culturally relevant programs. I did an episode of “Cribs” at my own house.
Anything to help me be cool enough for students to listen to me and take this Jesus thing seriously.
The results were mixed at best. Some got it, others wouldn’t give me the time of day.
I was frustrated. We weren’t reaching the amount of students I knew were available to be reached.
Something had to change…
It was me.
I had to quit trying so hard.
I had to quit trying to be cool and just be me.
Students didn’t care if I knew every single reference from pop culture or the music they were listening to.
They thought it was cool when I hung out with them. They liked that I showed up to their game or concert. They thought it was cool when we played basketball after school. They thought it was cool that I took them to lunch.
There’s an old ministry cliché that goes like this:
People don’t care how much you know until they realize how much you care.
NEWSFLASH: It’s completely true.
I had to be set free from the prison of people pleasing. It sounds funny, but it was necessary.
Trying to please everyone is a guaranteed way to please nobody.
No one will ever get to know the real you.
I’ve come to terms with my lack of coolness.
I like baseball. I like musicals. I like Civil War documentaries. I don’t really like concerts. I enjoy Disney movies… okay, I mean Disney cartoons. I struggle to stay up passed 10 pm.
I’m 33 years old now and less cool than when I started at 22.
Yet my effectiveness in ministry has very little to do with how cool I am.
It actually has very much to do with how much of genuine interest I take in the students we are reaching.
Loving, caring and believing in students trumps being cool any day.
Love others well, and don’t hide behind a mask; love authentically. (Romans 12.9, The Voice)
In fact, I’ve started to notice that genuinely loving people with no strings attached is very cool.