My kids went through a season where they watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs almost every day. One night while watching it with them I realized that I was looking at a picture of our youth ministry and probably many others as well. There is such diversity in a youth group that at any given time you could have any or all of the 7 dwarfs represented. It is important to know that and figure out how to help them thrive in that group setting.
Every group has their wall flowers. These are the people who are happy to sit in the corner by themselves and watch everyone else. I have sent leadership students to go talk with the bashful ones before only to find that they really would rather not talk. In our minds we think that they are not enjoying their time when they are just introverted. And if you call them out of the crowd they will immediately turn red.
Bashful seems to thrive the best when they find someone who is similar to them. If you have one bashful person, you probably have another one. And while their level of bashfulness might be different, they seem to enjoy being together. These students are also great people to pull into some behind the scenes service role. Try it out and watch them thrive!
Unfortunately Dopey comes the most often. They are the ones tripping over their feet, injuring themselves playing video games and forgetting how to get home. They are wonderful people who just miss a lot of the details in front of them. Their favorite phrase is: “wait, what?”
I have found that these students thrive when they are able to see the humor in life and enjoy some of the silly mistakes they make, not as some sort of liability, but as a unique way God has created them. They often bring a lot of interesting ideas to brainstorming sessions as well. You might never use their ideas, but their ideas often bring about other even better ideas.
Sleepy cannot even stay awake to say hello to you. These are the students that will go to a loud concert with you and sleep in the front row. What do you do? I guess you should start by giving them a job they love to do and by serving coffee.
Doc is your resident know-it-all. He knows Greek, Hebrew and a few of the tribal dialects. He will win the trivia game every time. Look to Doc to provide the schematic for the outdoor maze you want to make complete with emergency exits for Dopey. The best thing you can do with Doc is help him steer his genius to be helpful and not off-putting to others. When Doc is a humble person, others will respond with much greater respect.
Sneezy is always sick or has an allergy to everything, including air. That makes things hard enough, but they are also extremely nervous about it. I have found the best thing to do with them is remove that which makes them nervous and help them to relax. This should be a safe environment for them, so they can relax and hear from God instead of sneezing.
Grumpy is a glass half empty kind of person. At times he even breaks the glass. There is no way to make this person fully happy, even if they are smiling. They will always find a way to kill the fun you are having with a snappy, sarcastic comment. What can you do with them? Sometimes the best thing to do is ignore their grumpy comments. I have sometimes even playfully called them out on it or sent Dopey to converse with him. There is an opportunity to build a relationship with someone who is pessimistic to help them see that there is joy in the Lord.
Of course Happy does not need to be reminded of joy, they got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in their heart. He is always smiling, laughing and waking up at 5 a.m. with a bubbling personality. Happy makes a great greeter or game leader because they are just hard to get past without being happy also. As it turns out, happiness is contagious.
There is a variety of people in our churches. That means we cannot use a one-size fits all approach. It also means we need to think more creatively about how to reach them. Maybe it is time to throw out the box and look at the needs of the people right in front of you. You might just be surprised at how different personalities can be steered to really make a huge impact for the Kingdom of God.