For some odd reason, I always get stuck with guys in my small group who are really rowdy, loud and obnoxious. Needless to say, there are small group times that are very unproductive and uncontrolled.  Trying to talk to rowdy teenage guys about spiritual stuff is tough.  And trying to motivate them to pursue righteousness is a really tough task.

Right now, I am struggling with trying to figure out how to discipline dudes who are highly disrespectful but are somewhat wanting to follow Jesus.  This is how this post is going to work—  I am going to share my discipline strategy and you will share yours in the comment section.  Cool?

Here is my working list of strategies:

–  Make sure the rules, expectations and consequences are clear.  Once a month, during small group time, I remind my guys what is expected out of them. Some of my expectations are:  integrity all the time, no cell phone usage, respect me and others, listen when others are talking, and what is talked about in group stays in group.  Some of the consequences are:  a private convo with me after group, help clean up all the trash after youth group, and a phone call to mom and dad.  I have never banned a dude from youth group but I have come really close.  I joke with my guys that if they break the rules, I will make them do an insane amount of push up or wall sits.  Disrespectful guys need strict boundaries and structure.  Reinforced boundaries and structure allow for a rather enjoyable and productive small group time.

–  Be confident and consistent.  Disrespectful guys are typically pretty arrogant so you will need to confront them with confidence or else they will dominate you and destroy your small group culture.  They need to know who is in charge and that they will  not be able to get away with their disruptive ways.  Being consistent with your consequences shows your dudes you are serious about your expectations and you will reinforce consequences every time they break the rules.  If you don’t reinforce the rules and consequences your guys will disrespect you even more and won’t take you seriously.

–  Have a private conversation.  If things get out of hand during small group, make sure to talk to them one-on-one after the small group time is over.  Don’t discipline them publicly.  This is highly embarrassing for them.  Disrespectful guys are great at running their mouths and they will make it their mission to show off in front of everyone by refuting your public discipline.   So get them behind closed doors with no other people around and have a private, two way, honest conversation.  During this private chat, reinstate to them you really like them but you really don’t like their behavior during youth group.  Help them see the difference between their identity and behavior.  Communicate clearly who they are is not attached with what they do.  When disciplining disrespectful guys privately, they always counter your discipline by saying:  ”You just don’t like me” or “you are not fair” or “I didn’t do anything.”  Ensure to them you like them, but dislike their actions during group.  There is a big difference.   Opening the lines of communication privately allows them to express their point of view and shows them you are a listener that’s willing to brainstorm a course of action.

–  Treat them like adults.  Disrespectful guys are just wanting to be respected.  When they feel disrespected they will put up a tough and nasty fight.  Make sure to  treat them like adults which means they will have to take full responsibility for their actions because that is what adults do.  Being disrespectful is childish.  Tell them to act like adults and you will treat them like adults.

–  Keep your cool. Don’t show your anger or resentment.  Trust me…there have been times where I wanted to strangle some of my disrespectful guys but you cannot react.  Stay focused and respond in a gentle and loving matter.  Don’t let your frustrations overtake you.  When confronting and disciplining guys, model a tone that reflects the fruit of the Spirit.  Be calm.

–  Students have 6 longings.  Teenagers want to be loved and supported.  Chap Clark in his book  Disconnected states that all students have 6 longings:

1.  Long to belong

2.  Long to be taken seriously

3.  Long to matter

4.  Long for a safe place

5.  Long to be uniquely me

6.  Long to be wanted

Think about these longings as you deal with defiant behavior.  There are a lot of reasons why guys are disrespectful, but deep down they are longing for these longings to be met.  Work hard to really meet them as you lead your few.  A fist bump or positive word of encouragement can go along way with your disrespectful guys. Appreciation and verbal affirmation helps improve a their self-worth and behavior.  And always keep pointing them back to Jesus. Pray that He keeps working on their hearts and that He keeps showing them unconditional love, grace, forgiveness, worth, value and their uniqueness.

Now it is your turn.  What are your discipline strategies?




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Jeremy holds a B.A. in Communication from University of Minnesota as well as a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has a passion for connecting with and learning from student pastors, deliberatively researching, reading, and blogging about student ministry and family ministry, dabbling with online technology and experimenting in ministry lifestyle design and productivity in the church. Jeremy and his wife, Mikaela, live in Alpharetta, Georgia, where he serves as an Orange Specialist with the XP3 Student team.

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