If you're like me, you're a child of the church. As such, you spent plenty of time in youth group growing up. "Youth group," as you may or may not be aware, is a bunch of junior high and/or high school kids all just hanging out and not cursing for a while together, and about 30-40 percent of the time, you do stuff related to Jesus. Generally, there's some sort of church gym or rec room involved, almost always outfitted with that type of super-thin public-school-style carpeting that may as well just be linoleum. There are usually a lot of games being played and a lot of songs being sung and every now and then, some intense praying.
If you're NOT familiar with youth group, it's cool. Just remember how weird and awkward you were in junior high and high school, and then imagine sharing that weirdness with a room of varied people, and sometimes sharing emotions and secrets with those people, who you may or may not actually be friends with during the 162-to-165 other hours of your average week.
But regardless of what youth group you went to, or where, there are some general stock characters that you WILL meet at any youth group. Just take our word for it. We're experts.
1. The Overly-Casual Youth Pastor
Every youth group must, by necessity, be coordinated by - or at least supervised by - a youth minister or youth pastor. Some youth pastors are really cool. If you go to at least two youth group sessions in your lifetime, you will, at some point, consider becoming a youth pastor. Youth pastors aren't like normal pastors, in that they're usually young and relatable. Most of them are just normal-seeming, if unusually nice, dudes. (And yes, they're nearly always dudes.)
Occasionally though, that really cool youth pastor will depart to like, be a missionary in Tanzania or something, and you'll suddenly get a new youth pastor. That new youth pastor will probably be really, really chill. Like, more chill than he probably should be. He'll probably play a guitar, and wear a baseball cap and a puka-shell necklace. Then one day you'll be talking to him, and he'll offer some totally unnecessary piece of information. "Hey, I know what you mean, man," he might say. "I used to really struggle with masturbation." To which you will reply, "Uh." You won't really talk to him a lot after that, and he'll usually only end up being at your church for a few months. Still, though: while he was there, he was super chill.
2. The Guy Who Gets Way Too Into Worship
If you weren't aware, "worship" is the portion of a church service (or youth group session) that involves singing songs about Jesus, usually led by either someone with a guitar and a couple people who are really convinced they can sing, or by a band of varying size and quality. Here are some sample lyrics of an average worship song:
You are so super awesome
I love to touch your pretty face
Oh yeah Lord you're mega cool
At youth group, there's an acceptable amount of swaying, eye-closing, or hands-aloft-holding. One person will go way beyond that acceptable amount. Just hands in the air, waving them as though he does not care, head back, eyes closed, belting it out. Hey man, I'm just trying to sing along to this weak rendition of a Delirious? song. Quit throwing off the curve.
3. The Pastor's Kid
lucky unlucky of a certain age, you might find yourself in youth group with the pastor's kid, or perhaps the pastor's kid will be one youth group level above or below yours. I'm talking about the head church pastor here, not the youth pastor. The youth pastor's kid will usually not be old enough to speak (and another will be on the way).
The pastor's kid will inevitably conform to one of two archetypes, with no in-between.
A. Totally normal, cool person.
B. The worst person you have ever met.
If you are treated to A, you will probably enjoy this person quite a bit. They're relatable, really normal-seeming, and don't seem overly Jesus-y or anything. Maybe they'll end up in the theology gig as well, maybe not; no big D.
If you are subject to B, however, hoo boy. Literally a holy terror. The "bad" pastor's kid (at youth group age) is trying to be the biggest snot-nosed punk. They're actively trying to be. Trying is the operative word here, as they are genuinely attempting to be a huge rebel, but likely the most saucy media they've ever been exposed to is half of the televised version of Problem Child 2 that they caught at a friend's house once. So they're just child-actor levels of irritating, and they'll never stop. Run from them.
4. The Bible Nerd
This person might be a "nerd" in name only. They may be a dangerous-looking longhair with loads of swagger, or they may be a dumpy guy with glasses. The point is, they will know a TON about the bible. They'll know, like, ALL of the verses and stanzas or whatever it is the bible has. They'll know all the answers to the bible trivia questions (yeah, that's sometimes a thing), and they'll be able to couch their opinions or decisions on actual bible verses. They'll even know what all the parts of "the armor of God" are, right off the top of their heads. (Just for the record, I was asked this question in a round of high-stakes bible trivia once as I was going head-to-head against two different bible nerds. My guess of "the leggings" was not accurate.)
5. The Burnouts
There will always be people at youth group that you don't expect would be there. People from your school who have dubious reputations or hang out with less-than-reputable crowds. These youth group attendees may even occasionally - GASP - sneak off for a smoke break. But at youth group, though they may all tend to stick together, they'll be cooler than you expect. You generally won't talk to them at school, of course, but they're just "part-of-the-gang!" During youth group. Occasionally, one of the Burnouts will ascend to the rank of Bible Nerd. Don't be weird about it.
6. The Guy Who Always Has A Guitar
This guy usually won't be the person leading worship, but man, this guy always has a guitar. When you're all in the general-hangout portion of youth group, he'll post up on a table somewhere and vaguely practice chords and licks until someone tells him it's time to maybe not do that for a while. Then he'll spend the rest of the time gently cradling his guitar until everyone leaves. Neither a good thing nor a bad thing about youth group, but always there.
7. The Guy Who Is A Bratty Dick At School, But Cries During Prayer
Woof, THIS guy. This guy acts like King Shit of Prick Mountain during like 98% of his waking life, but breaks down like a blubbering infant on the regular during group prayer, because he realizes what a dickbag he is normally. There's a lot of hugging and comforting, but whoop! he'll be back to his prickish self again in short order. And the cycle begins anew ...
8. The Girl Who Has Misguided Notions About What Constitutes "Interpretive Dance"
Every once in a while, the regular Sunday-morning (or whatever) church service will feature a member or members of the youth group performing a song, or a skit, or ... and this is where things get dicey, "interpretive dance." A lot of interpretive dance - even when done by professionals - is fairly hit-and-miss to begin with. But when you start talking about a couple of teen ladies who just sort of sway their arms more-or-less in time to a Contemporary Christian Music single they picked up at the bible book store, it's where the wheels really start to come off of even the loosest interpretation of "dance." Someone will do this at a service, and the rest of the girls at youth group will start thinking about what THEY can do at service. It's the slipperiest of slopes.
9. The Guy Who Tells A Girl That "God Wants Us To Be Together"
Being a teenage boy is weird, and creepy, and gross. Being a teenage boy that has a crush on a teenage girl is even weirder, creepier, and grosser. But when you add Jesus Christ the Lord of Lords and Kings of Kings into the mix of a teenage crush, SHIT GETS WILD. The least confident and least self-assured of these dudes will develop a deep crush on a fellow member of the youth group (usually one that is also super into Jesus, not one of the Burnouts or anything), and if she doesn't seem into it, he will try to invoke the name of Our Lord and Savior. "Look, I've just been praying about it, and I think God is telling me He wants us to be together" has never worked as a pick-up line, but these guys will try it. As a teenager in youth group, it's only just BARELY acceptable. In the real world, THIS IS A THING A STALKER SAYS.
10. The Person Who Only Comes Once
At some point, someone will manage to convince a non-church-going friend that they should "come check out" youth group. This person will be perfectly polite, seem pretty into some things (usually the games), seem slightly-to-moderately put off by some other things, and never, ever come back. Chances are that this may have been you. If it was, we all thought you were cool. Sorry about being weird.