Are You Chasing Cool in Youth Ministry?

What constitutes a cool youth pastor? 

Most youth pastors want to be cool.  Some want to wear cool clothes, buy apple computers, date and marry hot women, know all the cool sayings and handshakes, get tattoos, have edgy haircuts and glasses, learn Hebrew and Greek and own all the new technological gadgets.  I don’t necessary think this is a bad thing.  In fact I do most of the things I listed myself.  However being cool requires more than just buying all the newest and coolest stuff.  The aim of this post is to get my youth worker audience to expand their definition of what coolness is and does.

To be cool means to be interesting.

Most youth pastors by design are just more entrepreneurial and love to stick out.  Think about it….. youth pastors and student pastors are the “chosen ministers” that have to translate the Gospel to the next generation— who by the way hates church and reading their Bibles.  Youth pastors have to work extremely hard at reading and studying the Scriptures with first century eyes and addressing twenty-first century questions that teens in our communities keep asking.  Youth pastors carry a daunting task of translating and interpreting the Gospel– that is alive, coherent and compelling– to a generation that doesn’t frankly give a rip and, unfortunately is experiencing a severe case of ADD.

So as youth pastors who teach and lead youth groups how do we become interesting and not boring? 

I think the Swiss Reformed Theologian, Karl Barth was on to something when he published his article in Time magazine on Friday, May 31, 1963.  Barth stated that people must “take their Bible and take their newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from their Bible.”

A few years ago, my lead pastor and I got into a conversation about what makes a youth pastor “interesting” while he/she faithfully teaches the Scriptures and still culturally relevant.  My lead pastor spent a decade in  youth ministry so he knew the trap that many youth pastors fall into when trying to hard to be cool.  During our conversation, he made a comment that I have never forgot.  He said “to be interesting you have to be interested.”

In another words to be a “cool” and “interesting” youth pastor— one does not need to own trendy stuff, but rather needs to encounter and experience a lot of different stuff.

A youth pastor should never be formed by the world around him or her.  The youth pastor should show how the Scriptures relate and connect to the world.  Similarly to how Jesus prayed:  “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Youth pastors must first start with the Scriptures and begin to go out into culture to find illustrations, stories and metaphors that will make the stories found in Scripture connect and resonate with today’s teens.  To find stuff that makes the Scriptures comes alive– you have to be interested in exploring a lot of “cultural” stuff.   The more interested you are, the more material you will have to help you — as you translate the Scriptures from week to week to an unchurched-Biblically illiterate generation.

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Jeremy Zach
Jeremy Zach easily gets dissatisfied with status quo. He reeks with passion and boredom is not in his vocabulary. He becomes wide awake when connecting with student pastors, thinking and writing about student ministry, experimenting with online technology, and working out. He is married to Mikaela and has two calico cats, Stella and Laguna. He lives in Alpharetta, Georgia and is a XP3 Orange Specialist for Orange—a division of the REthink Group. Zach holds a Communication degree from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities and Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.