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Imagine a youth ministry without TROUBLE-MAKERS? A magical place where every teenager followed the rules and authority was never challenged. A youth ministry filled with harmony and happiness and a sense of bliss. Okay, now erase it…it will only exist in your imagination.

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….| help your students discover the esstials for a deeper spiritual life
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Your ministry is like all the others and you’ve got at least one TROUBLE-MAKER kid. Sometimes this trouble-maker is unsafe, but usually he/she is simply offensive and mean. It’s the one teenager who is committed to driving you beyond your extra-filling of patience, over the edge of reason, and plunging you into insanity. You don’t even need to take the time to think of who that kid could be—a name immediately pops into your mind.

The result is usually the same: ministry is made MORE DIFFICULT.

Here are some thoughts to consider when handling the trouble-makers:

COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
Few people really love rules or enforcing them. Regardless, make sure all your teenagers know what you expect in terms of appropriate behavior. The worst leadership mistake is keeping your mouth shut and assuming the trouble-maker kid will figure out the rules on his/her own. When you hold something in, it will eventually come out (usually in the form of an explosion). So, instead of having rules in your mind only, commit to clearly communicating your expectations from the beginning. One example of how we do this is prior to any trip we pass out our simple guidelines and consequences and briefly explain them. After everyone is clear on the rules and consequences we have every teenager sign the paper prior to leaving on the trip. This removes all of the mystery of what is expected, and it’s not hard-core-keep-these-rules-or-get-kicked-out-of-youth-group. We say something like, “We don’t expect any behavior issues at this trip, but we’ve done this enough to know that clarity is a good thing.”

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….| help your students discover the esstials for a deeper spiritual life
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BE FAIR, FIRM, FLEXIBLE
Rules need to make sense. Arbitrary rules are a magnet for trouble-makers. Ridiculous rules send trouble-makers into a fury and ignite their “revolutionary” spirit. You’d have better luck swimming with a school of hungry sharks in a blood soaked bathing suit than expect a trouble-maker to follow a rule that isn’t fair.

Rules need to be consistent and applied equally to everyone. This is especially true for consequences. For a legitimate trouble-maker, a rule is only as strong as its consequence.

Rules need to be flexible because it’s impossible to create a rule for every situation (although some have tried). An example of a flexible rule is, “Use common sense all the time.” Flexible rules allow you to coach your trouble-makers when they cause a disruption. These kinds of rules are also empowering because they allow students think what it means for themselves.

RESPOND SLOWLY
Before you react, take time to reflect. Acting too quickly can push a kid away from your ministry (which, in the bottom of your heart, you may actually want) and limit your impact (which you don’t want). Here are a few reflection questions:

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….| help your students discover the esstials for a deeper spiritual life
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..| How do I really feel about what’s happening? Am I taking it too personal?
..| What rules are being broken?
..| What is the impact to our ministry?
..| Do the rules need to change?
..| What’s the best course of action?

What do you do with the trouble-makers in your ministry?
 

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