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5 Ways To Help The Unruly Teen

Tom Deuter
October 21st, 2019

Little Jesse comes in week after week to youth group and every week he gets rowdy and obnoxious for games and hanging out with his friends.  He enters the auditorium, makes sure to pick a seat towards the back and near his friends so he can talk during the message.  He proceeds to talk during the entire message; being spoken to multiple times about it and eventually he gets pulled from the message.  Upset, he decides to just sit quietly and not participant in small groups.  Then as youth group ends he hangs out with friends and becomes rowdy and obnoxious again.

Let’s face it, we all know, in a youth group there’s that group of students (like Jesse) who break the rules, cause trouble, and oftentimes the ones being disciplined.  These students are dealt with in so many different ways.

In the ministries I have been a part of, I have seen students get removed, ignored, talked to, or placed with a leader.  The list continues on, but with all of these approaches, it seems that the problem is never solved.

But what if that was not the case and we could help these rule-breaking youth become valued members of our youth group and society?  We can.  It is possible by building up the “Developmental Assets” (40 positive experiences and qualities influencing development, helping make well rounded adults – found on Search Institute) in these students.  

Here are 5 specific ways to build those Assets and help those rule-breakers.

1. CONNECT THEM WITH POSITIVE ADULTS

Youth need to have role models that students can look up to and are equipped to provide guidance.  Positive adults can provide family support and much needed communication.  Connection with an adult, or multiple adults, builds many of the Assets.  Connecting them with other adults also gives them the opportunity to be mentored and to grow in every aspect of life (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc.).

2. SHOW THEM THEY ARE NEEDED AND RESPECTED

Ask students for help and ask their opinion when making decisions, even if it seems small to you it is a big deal to them.  Include them in everything that the group or community is doing.  Give them your attention. They want it and are most likely not receiving it somewhere else.  Love on them in the best way you can.

3. HAVE THEM SERVE

Service helps build many of the assets a youth needs as well as helps the older generations interact/relate to the youth.  Take them to serve the elderly, serve at a homeless shelter, help pack food for a relief organization, help the community clean-up, etc.  There are plenty of things that they can do and gets them interacting with other adults in the community.  This also helps the community’s view of the youth. It is great seeing teens “serve” instead of “disturb.”

4. GUIDE THEM TOWARDS A POSITIVE VIEW

This one is not something that we can do, as much as it is something we can lead in the right direction.  We can show them the worth that they have.  We can show them the positive side of things and teach them to look for that first.  We can show them what it looks like to care, be honest, be responsible, and have restraint.  We can also put them into places that stretch them to do these things more, so that Assets and skills are built.  We can teach and build their understanding of social competencies and what is “good” when and where.  As they learn and build these things, they begin to feel empowered, confident, and much more positive. 

5. EVERYBODY NEEDS TO BE INVOLVED

This is not just up to the small group leader, the pastor, the school teacher, the family, or etc.  The task of implementing these into the student’s life is on all people.  Students need to see these things in multiple places to reinforce them and make them known.  The school, community, youth group, and families all need to be in on these steps or the results may take longer or may be less significant.  Connect with all of these places and people to make sure you are all on the same page.

Following these steps in helping “Unruly Teens” could change the way we approach youth ministry.  Imagine if the teen that breaks the rules is no longer causing trouble but positively influencing society (and maybe even other rule-breakers).  If the rest of the youth are given help in building the assets they are lacking in, society and groups would change in drastic ways for the better.  They would change because both the rule-breakers and the rule-followers are now following the positive ways of the “Developmental Assets.”

Remember Jesse, well his pastor decided to begin implementing the “Developmental Assets” into his ministry (these five were included).  Jesse got connected with many of the adults of the church and one specific man that became his mentor. Jesse then became one of the pastor’s best students at group and began to grow in maturity exponentially.  Jesse now helps as a peer influence to get others to get involved adults and with the “Developmental Assets.”

Tom Deuter

Tom A. Deuter is a senior at Judson University, studying youth ministry. He looks forward to being a Youth Pastor at a church when he graduates in the spring. He has had numerous experiences in youth ministry through internships, summer jobs, practicum, and volunteering for local church ministries. He loves to spend time outdoors, with friends, and playing percussion.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.

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