Setting The Mood: How to tame middle school herds

The question was, “What are we going to do about the students?” One of my ministers approached me after our middle school program.  This year has been on the rough side in regards to the behavior of the teens.  It’s not that bad but then again I could be in denial.  When it comes to middle school students they are going to talk, they are going to be energized, especially when the Steelers come in to town to play the Ravens.  What this minister was referring to was our recent problem where the teens take a while to settle down.  We’ve tried talking to them in announcements, before prayer and every other segment, but they just seem as if they want to talk.
I was happy with this minister because you could tell he was engaged and saw a problem and wasn’t placing the burden on anyone but the team.  “What are we going to do…”  It’s something you like to see your ministers do, take ownership of a problem.  I didn’t want to let him down with my answer, so I paused, thought about it and responded…
“I think we need to invite the students to join us instead of us joining the students.” Basically, we need to stop letting the students set the standard, that’s up to us.  It’s about being more proactive with how we start the night.  What usually happens is we check students in at the door, leaders usually hang around the front as students make their way into the theater where we have worship.  The students socialize with themselves, while the adults hang up front, which in turn allows the students to get themselves riled up…it’s almost like a Lord of the Flies epidemic.  What we should be doing is spreading the adults throughout the building.  There should be adults:

  1. Greeting students at the door:  This makes them feel welcomed walking in the door.
  2. Mingling with students standing around: This prevents students from standing by themselves, sitting in a corner and being ignored.
  3. Inviting students to find a seat with them: It’s not finding the student a seat but inviting students to sit with the leader during worship.  With this move adults establish leadership, students feel privileged because an adult invited them to sit with them and it gives the adult more control.

If the adults don’t spread out and the teens find themselves with out any adult leadership, they are going to establish their own.  Sometimes this works out well, but sometimes it forms chaos.  It’s not worth the risk.  The ultimate solution is more ministers so that you can put the right amount of people in key places, but in the mean time you might have to look at how you are greeting students and letting them hang out before worship begins because it will set the mood to your hour of worship.  You want to engage the students first before they engage something else.

Not sure if people agree with me, would be interested in your thoughts…how do you set the mood for worship?