Covid-19 Resources

The Coronavirus And Cool Kids

April 15th, 2020

One of the reasons some adults do well in student ministry is because they’ve retained some of the characteristics of their student days. This is not the same thing as some out-of-touch adult trying to be cool. This is about an adult who, in certain respects, has failed to mature beyond their high school years.

They would say, “High School kids really connect with me!” Their senior pastor would say, “This guy (or gal) is a handful. If they didn’t fill up the place with students every week I’d probably fire them.”

This developmental impediment plays out in a bunch of different ways. We have validated and institutionalized one of them.

It’s called the “cool kid strategy.”

Briefly put, the “cool kid strategy” says that if you attract cool kids to your group, all the other kids will follow. And nobody can implement that strategy better than a student pastor who still has some of the developmental characteristics of a high school student.

Here’s why.

A student pastor who, in some ways, has retained the emotional wiring of a high school student, is acutely aware of the difference between a cool kid and a kid who’s not cool. And so they seek out the company of cool kids. Not only does that supposedly impact the size of the group; it makes the student pastor feel better about themselves. That’s one of the adolescent characteristics they’ve retained – a self-esteem that’s overly dependent on their place in the social hierarchy.

Now here’s the deal.

“Cool” is a quality that has little reality in isolation. It only kicks in when there is a group of kids who arrange themselves in a social pecking order. Apart from that social hierarchy, the terms “cool” and “lame” are pretty much meaningless. When there’s no group, there’s no social pecking order. So when they’re alone in their room and not on their phones (if that ever happens) there are no cool kids.

There are no lame kids. There are only kids.

Here is where the Coronavirus gives us an opportunity.

Other than the occasional Zoom videoconference, there are no groups right now. You don’t have to try and hang out with cool kids. You don’t have to worry about hanging out with lame kids. The high school kid inside you that’s worried about social hierarchies doesn’t need to worry about it. We are practicing social distancing right now. As a result, social hierarchies are temporarily off-line. 

Now’s the perfect chance for you to do some online, one-on-one investing in kids that are normally hard for you to connect with. Don’t ignore the cool kids. They need your support right now as much as anybody. But make some time to reach out to the kids at the bottom of the pecking order. It could be a powerful experience for them. It could start to change the way they feel about themselves. It could also help the high school kid who still lives inside you start to grow up a little bit. 

After all, when Jesus was walking around Palestine in the first century, He hung out with people at the bottom of that social pecking order. It turns out, those same un-cool people were the ones He used a few years later to change the world. You never know. That could happen again. Why not try it and see what happens? 


John hales from Ventura, California where he grew up surfing and playing guitar. He graduated second in his class from Pepperdine University and then attended Fuller Theological Seminary. His first call was to Community Presbyterian Church, also in Ventura, where he worked with high school students. He subsequently held positions with Young Life, The American Church in London, Kings College – University of London, and Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is currently on staff at North Point Community Church’s Buckhead Campus. He serves there as the Director of Staff Development and the Director of Starting Point.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.