Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Well, there is one thing I know about teens, cool matters. It has been a while since I was in high school, but I can vividly remember just how important coolness was.

Now, I wasn't the super cool kid or anything, I was more like a social ninja. That is, I could blend in anywhere. I had nerd friends and geek friends. I also had jock friends and band friends. I hung with goths before everyone shopped at Hot Topic and I also found myself with the preps. My closest friends were mostly like me. They didn't really fit the mold. That in itself was part of the cool factor, but we seemed to be missing the thing. You know what I'm talking about. The thing that made us stand out.

We fit in everywhere, so if we showed up we were accepted but like the ninja when we were gone it was as if we had never been there. I can tell you the secrets of the bandies and the secrets of the jocks, but when it came time for them to plan a party my group was never invited. If we showed up everyone was nice and welcomed us. We fit in just fine with them and that was cool.

I graduated with over 500 people and knew most of them. I look through a yearbook and I can remember them, but I wonder how well I was remembered. Maybe I spread myself a little thin trying to be cool with everyone.

I wonder how that works now. I see the obvious "cool" lines in my Youth group but I don't know if things work the same or not.

See I remember in HS that every group had their own hierarchy of cool. Bandies, AKA Band Nerds, were cooler based on the instrument they played. The coolest weren't really Band Nerds at all. Anyone in percussion was part of the cool group. They were better than the rest of the band and everyone knew it. They sat together at lunch beating out rhythms and laughing at people without rhythm. At my HS drummers could totally date cheerleaders. Now the guy on tuba, wow he was the Nerd of the Bandies. This was Poindexter from the movie Nerds.

Anyways, I've just been thinking about how all this worked when I was in HS and wondering how it works now. I think we, as Youth Ministers, judge our coolness by how cool the Youth we minister to are. I'd love to have all the cool kids, but I also remember how high maintenance they could be. I think that is one of the reasons I kept going back to the less cool kids. It is totally why I refused to date the cheerleader that asked me out my Junior year. Freakin' nuts the level of attention she required just being her occasional friend. I'm not saying all cool kids are high maintenance, but enough are that I think I'd like a youth group that looked more like my friends in HS.

How do you attract the social ninja? They can't fall for the standard social traps. They are freakin' Ninja. I need some kind of ├╝ber social ninja trap. What are they attracted to now? Back in HS I wouldn't bother with pizza nights or game nights ... maybe music if it was a good band playing, but only maybe. I did go for some pretty geeky things though. I don't know if I'm dedicated to throwing a medieval fair to try and catch a social ninja, but if one is going on in the area I might be there. This is the easiest environment to spot them. The fantasy geeks will be dressed up and speaking in King James English. The super cool kids will go but will be cracking on everyone. The social ninja will show up in street clothes, but will be with friends that are in character. They won't be cracking on anything and show actual interest in the people. They will even go hang with the cool kids while their friends are busy watching a joust and explain some of the stuff that they have been cracking on in such a way that they cool kids will actually think its cool. That is the moment to spring the trap. I'm thinking a social pirate might distract them long enough ...

I'm sure you can see why every Youth group needs a social ninja. It is the fact that they are actually interested in the people not things that makes them so valuable. That and Ninjas are freakin' awesome.