You Can’t Torture Them: Handling disruptive teens

As the marker left my hand I knew it would end badly.  1/2 an inch closer I would have had a blind middle school student in my small group.  I know I shouldn’t have thrown it at him, but he was creating shenanigans and I was losing control.  I’m willing to bet you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, okay, maybe you had more self control, but it brings up a great question.
How Do You React To Disruptive Teens?

Here are four steps our ministry takes:

  1. Ask Them To Stop: Small group or large group you first have to ask the student to quiet down or cut it out.  It’s just common courtesy.  Try not to yell or embarrass them, if possible do it subtly.
  2. Relocate Them: In a large group setting move the teen to a different seat.  We’ve had them sit next to a minister.  Change of scenery can mean a change of attitude.  In a small group I have my guys take a walk, meaning I ask them to leave the room and “take a break”.  Most times disruption is caused by pent up energy, having them take a walk will help them take off the edge.
  3. Bring It Home: If it really becomes an issue, you need to bring it to the parents.  There are three reasons as to why you bring it to the parents.  First, you’ll want to see if there is something going on that would explain the situation.  Second, they need to be a part of the solution.  Third it shows the student you are serious about what you do.  But the most important reason you bring it to the parents is to create a plan that will prevent this behavior in the future.
  4. Give Them A Season Off: Sometimes we need to ask them to take a break.  There is no reason your youth ministry should suffer because a student can’t behave.  I know as a church we don’t want to kick people out, but we have to keep in mind the health of the ministry and the engagement of the other students.

Our systems not perfect and it does need to be handle case by case; however, it’s a system.  With no system you’ll have chaos and that will chip away at the health of your ministry.

What’s Your System?  How do you discipline disruptive teens?