How To Handle Annoying And Obnoxious Teenagers

Part 1: Being Proactive and Preventing Distractions

There’s always at least one.  You might be in the middle of a serious story and you see them in the corner of your eye chatting with a friend.  The temptation is to stop what you are doing and call them out, but what if there was a better way?


Teenagers by nature are easily distracted and to hold their attention can be difficult.  They have a lot going on physically, mentally and emotionally.  This can be a complicated situation and that’s why we’re going to break this topic into two posts.  In today’s post we’re going to look at:


Many of the disruptions in your youth ministry are preventable.  To be proactive and prevent unnecessary distractions:


If taking on difficult teenagers is all up to you then you are going to find yourself frustrated and burned out.  Teach and train your volunteers on the best way to approach the situation (See Part 2 for more).

Encourage them to be loving and to avoid using emotion.  Let them know that by helping you they are creating a better experience for others.


Sometimes the distraction stems from your environments.  If someone is uncomfortable they are going to move around and that can be disturbing.  If there are objects that are competing for their attention then you are constantly going to feel the battle.

Ask yourself, “Are my environments promoting engagement?”  For example look at:

  • How teens are sitting.  Do tables work better than rows of chairs?  
  • The lighting.  Does having all the light on or working with ambient lighting work best?

Make sure you are constantly adjusting what works and what needs improvement.  The better the environments the better the chance you have of keeping their attention.


Is your program worth their attention?  It’s a challenging question, one that forces you to evaluate whether or not you are doing a great job.

If your program is interactive and engaging disruptions are less likely.  To improve your program make sure you are analyzing it.  I suggest evaluating your program using a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis.

A strong program leads to healthy participation.  Instead of asking teens to sit still you’ll be able to better mobilize their energy towards growing as disciples.  Check out Part 2 (Posting Wednesday November 9th) for more on handling situations that cannot be prevented.

Question:  How are you creating a more engaging experience to break down distractions? Please leave Thoughts. Comments. Questions.  You can leave a comment by clicking here.



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Holly

    very timely…struggled last night with a teen who when asked to put his phone away (several times) answered no, “i can’t”. Knowing the teen struggles with anxiety I am left with the question, remove him and call him out, or is there something different and more engaging I can do to make him NOT WANT to be on his phone for fear he might miss something!

    • Holly, I’m glad this was helpful. While the temptation is to take care of it immediately, it’s best to pause and ask, “How can I best serve this teen?” Thanks for sharing.

  • Cooper

    Would you recommend doing something like a “phone basket” where kids can put there phones so they’re not distracted by them during the service?

    • Cooper, it’s something worth trying. We had success with that in the middle school program I ran, but in the high school program we found it better to let students keep them.

      • Cooper

        We run grades 7-11 (in Quebec that’s when high school ends) together, so if it’s a rule for one, it will have to be a rule for all.

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