The proverbial “good kid” can come in many shapes and forms. They might be the ones that always show up early to actually help set up, or sit in the front row so they can pay attention and take better notes, or we ask to be on the student leadership team, or are the first to sign up for the missions trip, show up to every fundraiser and actually pay on time. There are certain signs that point us to the “good kids”. These students are respectful, care when they are not, conscientious, and engaged.
- Now take moment and think of the “good kids” in your group.
- List their names in your head for a moment.
- Dwell on who they are and what makes them a “good kid,” to you.
Here is where the challenges comes. There is also something deep inside that unintentionally sets up this equation:
Good kids = Perfect kids
Yeah- yeah- we all say we know that no one is perfect. Yet, do we really treat our good kids that way? These are some ways we can tell we have put them in this perfection expectation:
We Over-React When They Mess Up
I live with a couple of these said good kids. Last week one of them forget their notebook when they went to a class. The rule in that particular class is that if you are missing any supplies then you get a lunch detention. This student made a mistake and flaked out for a moment. They are human. It happens from time to time. So this good kid didn’t complain instead they took the consequence that came with their mess up. It was a mistake, not a life altering decision. The problem came as this student was taking their punishment. Friends walked by and nodded in sad solidarity as it has happened to them too. On the other hand teacher after teacher walked by and exclaimed, “OH MY, NOT YOU! WHAT DID YOU DO?” When my child came home they said, “I feel like because I am a pretty good kid that I am not allowed to ever mess up or have a bad day.” Guess what? Good kids fall down too. They get snippy, make wrong choices, and even scrape their knees from time to time. It happens to the best of us.
We Don’t Think They Need Us
Each of us have limited time to give in the form of discipleship, mentoring, and even one-on-one conversation with youth. The old saying that ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’ holds very true in our student relationships. The ones in our face whether they are loud, hurting, or obviously struggling are often the ones we make time for. What we miss with these good kids is that they are also often our perfectionists. They are the good kids often because they want to fly under the radar and not get in trouble. Quietly they might be dealing with deep insecurity, fear of the future, or any myriad of things. The double-whammy is when a good kid comes from a good family. We think, “Well they have support at home, what else do they need?” It’s part of adolescence to want additional voices to speak into their lives. Good kids need youth leaders too.
We Realize We Don’t Really Know Them Well
Good kids show up, are often proactive, and are willing to answer all of our questions the way we expect. Yet, it is easy to not know much about a good kid at all. Sure, maybe we know a couple of throw-away facts like they play a sport or got the lead in the school play. Did you know that one eighth-grade boy actually gets annoyed when the other boys in his small group fool around every week, because he thinks he might want to be a pastor someday and he has some questions? The girl smiling all the time sometimes gets embarrassed that her father still can’t speak a word of English even though he has lived in America for 20 years. It’s why you have only ever met her mom. Take some of your good kids aside and get to know them. What are their hopes and fears? Why do they engage in all the activities they do? Who are they?
We Think Good Kids Are Good Christians
Good kid also does not equal Christ-follower. We become so shocked when we find out that certain students have been hiding in the dark, covered in sin. The problem too often with a good kid is they act well and so we assume they don’t struggle with their faith. Just because they know the correct answers about Jesus doesn’t mean they know Him. Draw them out, don’t let them sit in the corner in silence. Find out where their questions lie. Should we have higher expectations for these types of students? If they are searching for Christ and want Him, then YES! Just remember good kids shouldn’t be leaders if they aren’t in a relationship with Him.
Bottom line is that there are so many reasons why our good kids can fall to the wayside. Sometimes we push them there, other times they are trying so hard they put themselves there. Our good kids need a vibrant relationship with the Lord just as much as those that aren’t labeled as good. As I mentioned I live with some of these students. I tell them often, “If you were perfect then you wouldn’t need a Savior. ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” None of us are really good kids, I think that’s where the freedom is. Will we give these students that freedom as well?
How do you treat your “good kids”?