Together, they interrupted every single lesson I ever taught, knocking object lessons off tables and peppering my heartfelt speeches with silly comments at all the wrong times.
I constantly battled them writing ridiculous things all over my office, drawing strange pictures of me (including one where I resembled a superhero covered in tattoos, for no discernible reason), and coming up with one creative prank after another.
They’ve wreaked havoc on the air mattresses on our mission trips, thrown ketchup packets in restaurants and thrown water bottles at the back of my head.
In other words, they were my resident goofballs. And as much as I do love them, I wholeheartedly agree with the phrase a fellow leader once uttered about them: “They can drive even the strongest youth leader to tears in under ten minutes.”
Although they never personally drove me to such a brink of emotion, I have learned a lot about the personality of “goofball” kids. As we know is true of all people, there’s more to these zany students than meets the eye.
I interviewed two of the biggest goofballs I know, Jake and Joey, to find out the true confessions of a total goofball–and some of their answers surprised even me.
First of all, why do these kids act out so foolishly? According to Jake, “I like to make people laugh, and I enjoy making people happy. If you can make someone laugh, you’re in for the friend ticket.”
Joey says it more frankly. “I act goofy because I don’t want to be boring. I like to have a dramatic life, where no day is the same day-to-day. I like to have a reason to get up each morning. If you’re not goofy, then you’re just normal.”
In the opinion of both boys, they earned their “class clown” ticket from a young age. “I was labeled as a class clown from kindergarten on…actually, probably from when I came out of the womb, to be honest,” cracked Jake. “But I’ve never really gotten in serious trouble for it. I’ve never gotten called out of the office unless I was constantly annoying. Sure, I goof off for the first few hours of class, but at the right time–I focus on the things around me. But I incorporate laughter into it.”
According to Joey, “I used to sit in class and play card games when I was seven or eight. The teachers would walk by and get mad at me, and I would just keep playing. That was the beginning of my goofiness. When I eventually started wearing odd things to school, like duct tape, people really realized that I was a goofball. It became obvious to people.”
According to my two goofballs, their friends and classmates treat them according to their silly social status: “I know people think I get egged on by their laughter, which is true. Sometimes people ignore me–especially girls–but guys usually join in and participate,” says Jake.
“People tend to put gas on the fire and let it go,” admits Joey. “They aren’t negative, but really encourage me to keep on doing what I’m doing.”
Is there any way to avoid setting off a goofball? Well, it might be a futile effort, no matter how carefully you tread. “If I hear something that sounds like a movie quote, it’s an instant trigger. I try to pay attention to teachers and leaders, but sometimes when someone’s talking–especially if someone is giving a speech–I can’t help but make fun of them,” admits Jake.
Try keeping kids focused, says Joey. “I believe that if you find something that is time-consuming and positive–like sports–you focus more and avoid being goofy. But it’s impossible to keep me from acting like a goofball. Try to keep me busy and keep me from being bored, but expect that my goofiness will come out no matter what.”
When you find yourself dealing with the inevitable goofball in your ministry, keep in mind that most adults react in “one of two ways,” according to Jake. “Adults either react back angrily, or they laugh it off.”
Joey points out that many adults are clueless. “When I was younger, adults really looked down on me and thought I had issues. Now that I’m older, adults either go along with it and joke around, or they’re totally oblivious to what’s going on and don’t even realize what I’m doing.”
What’s their preference on how adults handle them, even if they’re annoyed? Joey admits that he doesn’t really care. “I don’t care how they react, because if I’m enjoying myself, I think that’s all that matters.”
To others, though, adults can make goofballs grin. “I love it when adults try to mock me, especially when they try to imitate the annoying action that I’ve done. It helps refocus me onto what I should be paying attention to,” says Jake.
Check out “True Confessions of a Total Goofball, Part II“.