Tough to Love Youth

Tough to Love Youth
Jana Snyder

Our youth group, like many others, is made up of a good mix of “church kids” and non-churched kids; students that are mature in their faith and students that are babies in their faith; sporty students and video gamers….I think you get the point. There is a broad mix that is represented in each group, including the good kids and the bad kids. I wish I didn’t feel that way, but if I said that I didn’t, I would not be truthful.

Each week we have a group of boys that show up with their energy drinks in one hand and a cell phone in the other. They sit in the back of the room and talk non-stop even while the lesson is going on, and thrive off any attention they may get—whether it be positive or negative. Maybe you can’t identify with having this type of student in your ministry, but I am taking an educated guess that you do.

I often get annoyed and frustrated and wonder why they come; I wonder if they are learning anything, and I wonder why can’t they just behave. Once all my negative thoughts have reared their ugly heads I begin to take into consideration all the reasons why it is a blessing that those students show up each week: having an opportunity to show them unconditional love, teaching them boundaries, and sharing with them the greatest gift of all—Jesus Christ.

Although I’m able to see why it’s important that they are there, I still find myself frustrated, and sometimes even resentful, as they misbehave and disrupt the group time for everyone else. So I then must remind myself of some techniques that I learned many years ago in my time as a teacher. There is a man named Guy Doud who was named Teacher of the Year while I was in the prime of my teaching. I watched a video with him and it changed how I viewed my students, both the good and the bad, and it changed how I disciplined. Here are a few things that you may find helpful as you consider how to deal with your tough to love students.

1. Though this may seem obvious, remind yourself that this is a Child of God. God loves them immensely and knit them together in their mother’s womb. Starting with this thought helps counteract the negative view that you may have as they walk into the room.

2. Pray for them by name before your group time starts. Go and sit in the seats they usually sit in and ask God to help you understand where they are coming from and help them to have their eyes and ears opened to the truth of God’s love.

3. Catch them being good. One of the best things you can do to help curb negative behavior is to focus and find the good in a student. It will not only help the student to be encouraged, it will help change your mind-set from the negative to the positive.

4. Spend time with the student outside of the group time. This will let the student see that you are interested in getting to know them personally and not just dealing with them because that’s your job. You will quickly see that many times the students that are the most frustrating are the students that have been hurt and need support the most.

Some of my favorite students over the years have been the so-called “bad kid.” I found that once I took the time to get to know them and put into practice some of the ideas above, my heart changed. Instead of seeing them as a disruption, I saw them as child loved by God and needing to experience that love just as I had. Who knows…maybe that student in the back of the room that is driving you up the wall will be the next Billy Graham, Francis Chan, or Mother Teresa! How you love on your students does make a difference!

This article “Tough to Love Youth” by Jana Snyder was excerpted from: website. October 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”