The ‘In’ Crowd

Tight-PhatTHE “IN CROWD” Throughout my years of pastoring, I’ve had periodic stints of involvement with youth ministry. During one tour of duty, I noticed a couple of words being used in unfamiliar ways. I heard a girl tell a guy that his shirt was “Tight!” This would have mortified me as teenager, but he seemed quite pleased. Then I heard the kids calling all sorts of things “Fat!” Movies were “fat” … outfits were “fat” … snacks were “fat” … they even called me “fat.” The oddest part was that I could tell it was meant as a compliment. So, I did some research and discovered that in their mid-90s vernacular “Tight” meant stylish, cool, having everything together. “Phat” (pronounced fat) similarly meant excellent or first-rate. So … theoretically, “You’re Phat and your clothes are tight!” would be a great compliment; that’s when I realized I wasn’t cut out for long term youth ministry.

One of the things that I admire in a good youth pastor is their ability to connect with the youth culture without becoming part of it. There are few things as sad as a 40-year-old youth pastor who tries to dress and act like a teenager. There’s no long-term productivity in embracing folly to reach little fools (Proverbs 22:15). The point of youth ministry is to use God’s word to lead them to wisdom. Most kids who are really seeking Christ long to see what a mature Christian looks like.

That’s the challenge for Christians in every age … connecting with the culture without becoming like it. Doing all that we can to connect while staying true to who we are in Christ. Genuine followers of Jesus will never be part of the “IN CROWD.” We are called to be different from the world for the sake of the world (1 Peter 2:12). In fact, our model and our warning against thinking that serving God could be popular is Christ himself (Matthew 24:9; John 15:8; John 16:33; Hebrews 13:13-14).