This week Kurt and I are going after a youth ministry fail in our lives in the past season of ministry, and sharing what we learned from the incident. You got to revel in Kurt’s mistake yesterday—here’s mine.

I was teaching a few weeks ago in youth group and during the talk we had a disruptive student. It was a little disruption at first, but a few minutes later we had a full-blown problem on our hands. A student was making all sorts of comments and noises from his seat—students were staring, whispering, and generally completely distracted by the situation. We found out later the teenager has a special medical need and didn’t have any control over what was coming out of his mouth. But the point is our team didn’t know what to do…so no one did anything.

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FAIL: We weren’t ready to handle this situation. I’m left on stage trying to teach while this disruption is occurring and everyone is frozen or in a silent panic trying to figure out what to do.

LEARNING: The next week we put into place a simple 4-step process for dealing with disruptions during youth group:

1) The speaker never addresses the situation. Whoever is on stage models grace and pretends like nothing is going on. Motor through.

2) Don’t wait. Will someone else jump in? Let’s just take the “wait and see” approach to see if it gets worse. No…take action when any disruption occurs. From the giggles in the back of the room, to a full on meltdown, do something; don’t just stand there.

3) Take it outside. Ask the student to step outside of the room with you as discreetly as possible. Usually a knowing look or a fierce glare from a youth leader corrects poor behavior. When those don’t work, invite them to the exit for a talk.

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4) Investigate what to do from there. Could this situation be fixed by simply reseating the person? What discipline is needed to correct this behavior? Handle each situation with incredible amounts of care and grace but balance firmness.

General rule of thumb: don’t let one ruin it for all. Where have you failed and what have you learned recently?


  • Anonymous says:

    Your post made me think of this series of videos demonstrating excellent teaching techniques and classroom management skills.


    There is a great deal of difference between teachers in a school classroom setting and variablity among youth ministries in terms of the size of the “stage” and the amount of back up available to address problems. Often, students and other adult leaders are looking to the person on stage to preside over the lesson and sometimes (likely not in your situation) these kinds of classroom techniques can keep the class focused.

    I found these videos to be inspirational (there are several and students of all ages), not just something to consider as I plan my very small group lessons, but as I say a prayer of thanks for all teachers who love their students and their jobs.

  • Anonymous says:

    Try being in a church where you can’t get any adults to help out with the service, so the one “on stage” is the only adult available. The only way to handle the situation is to call them out publicly. I can’t just walk out with the student in the middle of the message. It’s difficult when it’s one adult to twenty students.

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