‘This is not an argument in favor of orphanhood and deprivation,’ Brown writes, ‘but the existence of these eminent orphans does suggest that in certain circumstances a virtue can be made of necessity.’ 
Instead of responding in a ‘let me control your behavior’ way, the teacher needs to think, ‘How can I do something interesting that will prevent you from misbehaving in the first place?’ 
– Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath
Taylor* had a developmental disability and he had trouble paying attention.
Caroline* crawled under tables and “meowed” like a cat.
Zane* had a severe food allergy and couldn’t be in the same room while other kids ate.
I encountered all of these students (and more) during my decade-plus in youth ministry. They are real kids, and they are in our communities. They are underdog kids.
Why are they underdog kids?
Because other kids can ignore them at times.
Because youth leaders can ignore them at times.
Because I ignored them at times.
What do these three really have in common? They matter.
From Malcolm Gladwell’s example, including yesterday’s thoughts on the Underdog Kid, these kids can reach incredible heights. When they focus and work hard because of the very thing that challenges their everyday life, they become stronger, well-equipped and prepared to achieve.
Why does this matter to youth ministry?
Imagine: one of these kids you encounter is difficult, has trouble paying attention, is bouncing off the walls or is having trouble fitting in. Fast forward two decades and picture what she might be doing in life. She could be doing anything.
And she could be doing it with Jesus by her side, or she could be doing it without Jesus by her side.
No doubt, these three real-life kids I encountered were difficult at times. They each required a little more work. But they were worth it, for so many reasons. I look back and wonder what they’re doing today, and whether God is for them.
If God is for them, who could be against them?
Spend a few minutes. Find some way to connect. Recruit a new leader to spend one-on-one time with these kids. They matter, and how much better will their childhood be if a leader invests in them and cares about them?
The names aren’t real; but the stories are.