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One of the best ways to describe middle school youth ministry is controlled chaos. The teens’ behavior on a given week is predictably unpredictable. You might be in the middle of a profound statement, and a teen will make a farting sound. You might ask a rhetorical question, and someone will shout out with a irrelevant answer. You pour your heart and soul into a message, and they’re glued to their ipod touch. But, you don’t mind and that’s what makes you a middle school youth minister.
While middle school teens are a special breed there is always going to be a time that you catch one that is just that much more special. It’s that teen that is consistently obnoxious, you know the one who is easily seen and heard. You know you have to do something about them because you’ve just about had it. So other than throwing your shoe at them, what can one do?
Put Together A Plan
Here is ours:
- Address The Student – You might have called them out in public, but now it’s time to talk to them in private. Before the next gathering share with them your feelings about their behavior and ask them their thoughts. Sometimes a teen will be acting out because of what’s going on in their personal life, sometimes they’re just acting like a middle school teen. Either way, let them know your feelings.
- Remove The Distraction – Sometimes a teen will act out because of where they are seated. They might be distracted because of their friends, a cell phone or maybe an ant that crawled into the building. Either take the distraction away or take the distraction from them.
- Talk To The Parent – If the behavior continues talk to the parents. My suggestion is to do this face to face. I know it will be a little more intimidating; however, it’ll will come off more authentic. An email (and even a phone call) risks misinterpretation that you do care about their kid, it’s just their behavior that’s driving you mad.
- Take A Break – If the teen continues to be a problem, sit with the parents and teen talk about giving the teen a break from your ministry. It could be a few weeks or a few months, it all depends on the severity of the issue. The point of the break is twofold: one, you want the other kids to get a break from the distraction he/she is causing and two, they might need to take a step back to gain perspective on their behavior.
If you have a plan to address misbehaving teens you are less likely to have the situation blow up in your face. The best thing to do with the plan is make sure that the teen, parents and your team are aware of each step. If you blindside a parent by removing their teen without warning, it could cause a void in the relationship. If you pray that it goes away, chances are your risking the enjoyment of others. Again, the best thing to do is to have a plan and lean into the situation.
What’s your plan for handling misbehaving teens? Do you have a policy for high school students?