We have all had those students who don’t listen, can’t sit still, act as if they don’t care what you have to say, goof off at all the wrong times, and are just plain difficult. I am often questioned about dealing with those students. I recently received a submitted question that read “I have a student that is full throttle out of control. My job is to teach the small group lesson but he will not sit still or listen even for a minute. He somehow becomes the center of attention every week and distracts all of the other students”.
We have all had “that” student and struggled to deal with them. But here are 5 tips for turning “that” student into the best student!
1. Find out what they are going through
Most of the time students who are constantly acting out and seeking attention are not doing it because they are getting all the attention they need at home. As youth leaders it is so easy to just see the problem they are creating without realizing it is a cry for help. Find out what is going on in their lives, have one on one conversations, not about their behavior, but about their life. Care about them and help them through what they are going through. Not all of the time, but most of the time you will find there is a major reason why they act the way they do at youth group.
2. Give them a responsibility
One of the quickest ways I have seen to turn problem students into great students is to put them in charge of something. It can be as simple as giving them the important responsibility of opening the door for everyone. Or get them involved in running sound, video, security, or anything that will give them the feeling they are important and helping. Over and over when I cannot figure out how to get a student to behave one of my leaders gives that student a responsibility and changes them.
3. Assign an adult to them
When I have students that will not listen it is usually a cue that they need one of my leaders to step in. Whether it is during a sermon, game, or hanging out after youth group having a leader reinforce the rules or simply tell them to knock it off can be just what they need.
But some students who continue to misbehave or not adhere to the rules can be easily handled by assigning them a leader. In fact, I have a student who was given a permanent seat in the back right next to one of my best guy leaders. It began as a way to keep him quiet but it quickly changed into a relationship the student actually chose. He now gets up and voluntarily sits in that seat. It’s awesome! Just a few weeks ago I said from the front before I started my message, “hey, if the person you are sitting next to is going to tempt you to talk you are free to move right now” and without even a question he got up and walked to the back and sat right next to his leader.
Sometimes assigning a leader to a student is not only a great way to handle their disruptive behavior but also a way of getting that student the love and attention they need. Which leads me to number 4.
4. Pour into them
Show an interest in the student’s life. Go to their games, stop by to hear their garage band practice, attend their talent show. Do something to invest in their life. It is easy to say, “respect me because I am in charge” but it is another thing to pour into them and invest in them and earn their respect.
When you pour into them you are earning their respect by showing them you care about them. Will this fix all of their behavior issues? It may or it may not, but it will surely give you more of a platform in their life to tell them their behavior is disrespectful and to lovingly correct their behavior.
5. Pray for them!
This one hits home for me. I often see the problem students at youth group as just the problem students at youth group. If our purpose in youth ministry is what it should be then we need to see even the problem students as someone we can love, care about, and point toward Jesus.
How often do you pray for the students that drive you nuts? How often do you lift them up in prayer throughout the week, not about their behavior, but just about them? Pray for those students that may get under your skin. See what God will do to their heart and to yours.
Every student is different, and yes there are distracting and difficult students to deal with. But are you in it for redeeming students? Because some of the most difficult students can end up being some of the best students!