Took a group of middle school students to Hershey Park.  During the day the students were free to roam the facility; however, had mandatory check-in times.  When one girl arrived late I asked her for a reason and all I got in return was attitude.  It was a little unexpected and at first I didn’t know how to respond.  I wanted to call her parents and send her home, but then I learned that there was more to the story.  In the end she apologized and the rest of the day was fine.

Has a teenager ever copped an attitude with you before?  It’s alarming and sometimes unexpected.  When caught off guard it’s easy to want to shoot back and go even lower.  Or, maybe you just don’t know how to overcome the disappointment and let it slide.  No matter what you feel, when a teenager shows you a little attitude you need to respond.  But, how do you respond without hurting, rejecting or blowing off the situation?  First, you:

Listen – No matter what they say let it sit out there.  Sometimes the teenager just needs a little bit of time to think about what they said.  If their response was in a moment of passion you are giving them an opportunity to hear their mistake.  You respond immediately and you might escalate the situation down the wrong path.

Respond With “I” Statements – When someone offends us the tendency is to immediately shoot blame.  Instead make your first response a description of how you are feeling like, “I’m a little hurt.” Or “I’m surprised by that.”  Not only are you being authentic, but also you are allowing the offender to know the immediate consequences of their actions.

Offer To Go Deeper – This doesn’t mean to pry and fix what’s going on in their life; however, an off colored comment can sometimes be a shout out for help.  All you need to do is simply ask them, “Is there something we need to talk about?”  If they trust you they’ll let you know the truth.  If they do want to talk about it, just listen and if they don’t assure them that you are available.

Follow Up With Discipline – If a student makes a rude comment towards you, another adult or their parent, be sure to address their action.  Dishonoring parents and being rude to your elders isn’t right.  What is that disciplinary action?  Well that depends on your situation.  It can be as simple as asking them to apologize to who they’ve offended, to removing a certain privilege or responsibility.  No matter what the disciplinary action is, deliver it in love.

When a teen cops an attitude it can be anything from a cry for help to unresolved conflict.  Don’t brush it off, overlook it or over react, if anything slow down the pace, listen and show them God’s love

How do you deal with a teenager’s attitude?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read great articles and thoughts about youth ministry on his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Another “WOW” story from a student.

“Wow, where to start.  This week has been life changing for me.  I can honestly say that God has shown me he is real and he is amazing.  Before this trip, God was kind of missing in my life and I feel that he brought me on this trip for a reason.  That is that God is always with you.  He is always showing you in some of the simplest ways that he loves you.  This trip has been an emotional rollercoaster for me.  I cried, I laughed, I loved and much more.  But I did all of those things because God was really becoming clear to me for the first time in my life.  He has brought me so many new things from great friendships to a whole new take on things in life.”  Gianna age 15

In my last post, I talked about the awesome student leadership book we have coming our way.  While we were in-between books, we have been putting together our own lessons that are based off of various pieces of scripture. Last Sunday, we did our lesson on Acts 17:24-25 and our students responded really well to it, so I thought I would share what we did!

24 “He is the God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples, 25 and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs. He himself gives life and breath to everything, and he satisfies every need. 26 From one man, he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. Acts 17:24-2

We started off the lesson by giving the students 20 minutes in prayer and meditation on the scripture.  Normally, we would introduce the topic to them and what we want them to take out of the verses we give them, but we wanted to see what they would come up with on their own.

Here is what we wanted to drive home:

GOD DOESN’T NEED US! In fact, God doesn’t need anything!  Sometimes, we have this idea in our head (whether consciously or unconsciously) that if we don’t do something it won’t get done.  We think that God’s plan is dependant on us making the right choices.  We think that if we don’t evangelize to that person or serve at that homeless shelter, then no one will do it.  That leads us to have a hero mentality that abandons humility and puts God in a box. But God can work outside of you.  He was working way before you were born, and he will continue to work after you die.  The great news is that God invites us to be used by Him to do His will! Incredible!

Here is a cool response we got from a student named Sierra (paraphrased):

Because God’s work isn’t confined to us, there is no room to boast about what you have done in the name of the Lord. We can never take pride in the fact that we lead someone to Christ or started a ministry because it was not us that did it!  It is by God ALONE that we are able to accomplish anything. Same goes for our gifts! We should be thankful for each talent and gift that we have because they are each God given, we have done nothing to deserve them!

What have you been teaching your student leaders?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

I blogged about Krispy Kreme a few weeks ago after HSM Summer Camp – this weekend we played a funny parody music video made by some of our students. Got lots of laughs!


Every so often someone will write in and ask a few great questions about blogging – thought I might take on a few of them from time to time here. Up today is one I got just this week, “where do you get all of your ideas for blog posts?” Here’s a little insight on my process:

  • Start a journal of ideas – when you’re bored in a meeting write down a list of topics and quick bullet point thoughts. If you were to look at my journal you would find pages of quick ideas and thoughts that could easily be developed into full posts.
  • Write when you don’t feel like it – just motor through the tough times and make it happen. Happens to the best of us!
  • Look through photos for inspiration – sometimes I look through my iPhone and instantly SEE/FEEL a blog post. Might be a good way to trigger something that you may have forgotten.
  • Start accepting/soliciting guest posts – I love other people’s thoughts and perspectives on youth ministry. It is fun to share the stage with others – plus, sometimes I need to hear what they have to say, too.
  • Come up with weekly features/filler – if you have some “regulars” that you post every week, it helps you stay in a rhythm. Some of mine are: polls, the HSM weekend in review, etc

Any other tips on where to get blog posts from?


Live To Give

 —  August 24, 2012 — 2 Comments

Since he was 9-years old, Austin Gutwein has been raising money to help children in Africa who are orphaned due to HIV/Aids. In addition to raising over three million dollars (yes, you read that correctly), he speaks to thousands of teenagers each year challenging them to use their gifts and passions to make a difference in the world.

Austin, now an 18-year old about to enter college, just released his second book, Live To Give. Austin’s story is unique, but he really isn’t; he’s a pretty normal teenager who decided years ago that he wanted to help people who were hurting.

In a time when society seems to be lowering the bar of expectations for our teenagers, Austin is a great example the “different way” Jesus calls us (including teenagers) to. Buy a bunch of his new book and make them available for cheap to your students….or just buy one and use it to create your own “Live To Give” teaching series.

Let’s rally behind teenagers who are breaking the mold!

This is a review of a few posts we dropped on the web a few months ago.  With so many of my youth ministry friends out of work it seemed appropriate to revisit them. Here are the links to a five post series on tips to help get a job in youth ministry as well as things that you should be doing now while you have a job…you never know when God will call you away or when the hammer will drop.

Are there things that you did not see in these post that were helpful to you in your search?


No… Not an after school special like ABC (if you’re old enough to remember those) – a Back-to-School Bundle!!

Our friends at Simply Youth Ministry have put together a great special for you since it’s time for all your students to go back to school.

It’s a great deal and it’s called: Jason’s Back-2-School Bundle – 50% on resources from CIY, Marko, Group Mag, Kurt Johnston, Rick Lawrence,  and Brian Berry.