What youth (and younger kids) want most from adults is for adults to act like adults.
Not like their current favorite musicians, or actors, or athletes. Just adults. No need to use youth slang, or dress like them. Contrary to what I’ve read from some youth and kids leaders, it’s okay not to wear printed shirts and designer jeans. Seriously. Just be yourself. Sure, take a shower, wear clean, reasonably fitted clothing, and brush your hair and teeth. But don’t try to blend into the youth crowd as if you are some kind of 40 year old teen. You will just scare them away.
They want you to be kind, but not overbearing in your attentiveness toward them. They want to know you are interested in their lives, but they also do not want to be asked the same questions each time you see them. You know, “How’s school? Are you staying out of trouble? Have you heard my latest lame joke?” And so on.
What they do want is to be taken seriously. I know. It can be hard at times, especially when the boys wear their pants so they are falling off their hips and when the girls get catty with each other over perceived slights. Do what I do. Keep quiet and look for prime opportunities to have real conversations. About life, the weather, their skateboarding exploits, or artistic endeavors. You get the idea. Young people want meaningful relationships with adults but they can be wary at first.
Can you blame them? Some of us adults act pretty weird at times, especially when we are trying to ingratiate ourselves to teens. So, stop it. Don’t worry about impressing anyone. Be comfortable in your own skin. And do so with the love of Jesus and a sincere care for the kids. That will impress them most of all. And you won’t even have to wear a goofy print shirt because the kids will perceive something about you that penetrates far deeper than external appearances.
They will know you are real and trustworthy. And they come to recognize that if you possess trustworthy character, maybe God does too. Imagine that.