Student ministry includes a lot of different challenges. Students attend from all kinds of backgrounds. Whether you are in a large or small group gathering, no matter how amazing a speaker is, students will disrupt because...they are students.
Here are a few tips I use to respond to disruptive students:
1. Encourage volunteer leaders to sit strategically with students who are disruptive. Instead of only sitting in the back with the "bouncer look", go ahead and sit close to encourage them to focus.
2. Communicate from the stage. On a regular basis I encourage students from the stage with something like this:
"I'm so glad we are all here together tonight to hear from God. We have a great opportunity to hear from God, but it is hard if we don't focus. Have you ever tried to talk to someone and they were talking when you were at the same time? How did that feel to you? The same is true for this time as we learn from God's Word. If you and I are distracting someone else from listening to God, it is serious. It is a big deal to distract from God's Word. As we jump into what God wants to say tonight, let's show respect to what really matters."
Once you say this, any student who disrupts will know what is expected.
3. If a student is continually disruptive, I talk to the student (or a volunteer leader talks) and let them know that if they continue, I’ll need to talk to their parents. Rarely have I ever had to do this in the past 10 years. Usually this is the last step to help you and the parents work to find out why their child is showing out.
I am reminded as I look back at my teenage years that I was disruptive at times. I talked when my leader talked. I remember that I wasn't always as focused, as I should be. Don't forget that it is a process and that some students are crying out for help through their behavior.
Show them Jesus. Be firm. Set the bar high but try to understand the reason they are behaving the way that they behave. By the way, they are listening more than we think.
What tips do you have on responding to disruptive students? Share in the comments below.