Geeks are an eclectic bunch, sometime hard to get to know; they speak a different dialect, a jargon that seems so strange. The jargon varies from geek to geek, determined by what the geek is passionate about, what they are into. They might seem cool for a spell like how we might laugh at The Big Bang Theory or when a geeky movie comes out like The Avengers.
But most of the time, the geek life is a lonely life.
I should know— I’m actually Geek Royalty. In 1991, I won the Dungeons and Dragons Open event, the largest event of its kind at Gen Con (the Super Bowl of nerdery). I’ve presented at Comic-Con for multiple years and started “Geek Week” at colleges such at UCLA and Rutgers. It’s in my blood, my DNA, my Gattaca.
But when you don’t speak our language, when we ask if you what you thought of the Walking Dead and you reply, “The TV show?” and with such scorn we reply, “No the graphic novel” it can cause some distance. So how do you connect with these geeks in your youth group.
Now there are some stereotypes of geeks—we are pale skinned, male, horrible at athletics, introverted and socially awkward. And I’ll be the first to admit, at 14-15, I was all of those. Now you’ll find some geeks are extroverted, but you might only see this around their own tribe. They are horrible at athletics, because when you are picked for kickball last in 3rd grade, you are usually picked last in 6th. But there is no template for us—we have more variations than the X-Men comic book covers (if you’re a geek, that joke totally kills).
Here’s a primer on how to get geeks attention and connect
- Listen, for a spell: Geeks will go on and on if we have an attentive ear. Sometimes in the junior high development and on to high school, they might not have the clue you are uninterested. Geeks can miss that subtle verbal clue and we are wounded when it’s not so subtle. We bottle up all of our enthusiasm and when someone shows mild interest, we tend to gush. If we tend to go overboard, start asking questions that are about their geek love, but not necessarily why there are two Slayers instead of one (Answer: Buffy died briefly and then Faith became….you know what, never mind.) You could ask: “Why does that interest you?“, “Who would you be if you could be one of them in the story?“, “What movies (games, TV) are influenced by that?” They aren’t asking the question about their hobby—they are answering questions about themselves.
- The Gateway Drug: Ask the geeks what you could watch to start to see their interest. If they are interested in World of Warcraft, ask them to show you how to make a character. If they are into Steampunk, ask for one book you should read. Geeks are not looking for people exactly like us; we understand people care about us if they want to know what we love.
- Give the Option: These kids are slammed into lockers, picked last in gym, and if that becomes what your youth group is about, they will put on the One Ring and become invisible. If you have physical stuff as part of your weekly meeting, give them the option out, but they must serve in some capacity. Also, let them shine. Have a trivia night—some kind of engineering challenge (egg drop)—and let their geek flag fly a bit.
- They are More Than a Geek: When you have time find out what else they are interested in besides the geek menagerie. Do they like to swim? Are they into art? Do they build things? Sometimes our geek identity is what takes up the most space and most people do not get past it to see what else is there.
- Connect Us: If you have adults in your congregation who are of the geek clan, make sure and connect them to your youth. One of the hardest parts about being a geek is not having a role model who doesn’t tolerate, but celebrates our geeky nature (my father and I watched Star Trek together growing up. It is one of my favorite memories, but alas, he wasn’t a board game player.)
- Just Love Us: We seek heroes in our films and comic book pages. We look for someone to save the day. Behind every single geeky pursuit there is the need to be loved and find connection. Show us Jesus; show us He loves us and we’ll follow Him (and you) to Mordor.