Being cool. Those words come out of our mouths or the mouths of our students often and in different forms. I wish I had that cool car, or those new sunglasses are cool, or I want the cool overalls that everyone is wearing (yes, overalls are back in style). Other versions of being cool include “Will they like me if I do this?” or “Will they ever talk to me again if I say that?” Those scenarios come up often when working with young people.
In regard to cool, Do you say the hard truth? Do you stop jokes or conversation that you realize are hurting one of your students?
Let’s start with a definition of cool. According to Merriam Webster the slang definition of cool is “very good, excellent, or hip.” While excellence is a character quality all persons can implement, hip is one that probably should be avoided. Being hip means that students approve of what you do because you are in style. There is nothing wrong with wearing the latest fashion trends, or using current movies as illustrations! Do that. Use the culture to communicate truth, but do not fall into the trap of getting students to approve of “style.” Once that becomes the goal, it is easy to stop sharing truth for fear of not being liked (that is, in “style”).
In contrast, Jesus said to be in this world but not of it. In other words, live in the culture, but be honest about truth. Live in the culture, use examples from it, but don’t desire approval from those steeped in it. The World’s truth filter is way off. One of the main responsibilities of a youth worker is to love students and share truth. Let’s be real, sometimes truth hurts. If there is a choice between being cool and speaking truth, then speaking the truth in love has to come first.
I remember a moment with a student who was sharing about their life with me. I could tell they wanted me to condone behavior that was not right. Instead, after listening to them fully, I shared some hard truth about the consequences of their current actions if not changed. I remember thinking after that conversation, “They may never want to talk with me again.” I was wrong. A long time after that conversation, I was thanked by the student for being honest-for telling the truth. That situation has stuck with me as a reminder that being cool is being honest. Students need to know that their leaders live and share truth. They may not always want to hear it, but the only place they hear it may be from you. So know everything about what students think is cool, but remember that being “cool” in God’s kingdom means walking after Jesus’ ways.
Guest Post From Rebecca Harbin
The five things you need to know about Rebecca:
1. Living as a Chayil is her life goal (It’s a Hebrew word-from Judges 6:12)
2. Doing life with her husband is rad.
3. Lifting weights is her all time favorite.
4. Finding the best London Fog is her top pregnancy goal
5. Eating at crepe shops is super exciting.
To check out her life’s adventures go to @warriorbec