Discovery ChannelOkay, first off – how did I not know the show “Amish Mafia” existed?

I ask because I stumbled onto it through a random web link. I later did some research and learned that the show  isn’t as accurate as it presents itself to be. A great article from Lancaster Online gives testimony to how the main personas and storylines of the show are more “between 1 and 10 percent truth.”

Still, after watching these clips, I found something “familiar” about it.

Maybe you can help me out here. I’m not Dutch, I don’t live in Pennsylvania and I’m a big fan of electricity.

So from this preview alone, what am I identifying with?

Are there any implications or comparisons for what does and doesn’t happen in youth group circles… and the role some youth workers take on?

For example, I feel there is this subculture within youth groups where some kids want to go wild but create the sense they’re staying true to their faith. Then within that subculture there’s another subculture who encourages it (i.e. the Amish mafia), and yet another subculture (i.e. parents/church legalists) who are quick to pounce.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

Honestly, our ministry is going through a little bit of a crisis right now.

On the surface you wouldn’t see much out of the ordinary – youth group is fun and energetic, small groups are plugging along toward the end of the school year and the last big event had strong attendance and quite a few new faces. My boss seems happy, we may actually come in on budget this year and generally things are OK.

But under the surface, we’re dealing with some serious issues. God is choosing to bring us not 1, not 2 … but 6 big things to the surface right now. Some serious stuff we’ve got to process. Some stuff we haven’t dealt with before. Some difficult conversations that need to be had. Some stuff it is mandatory it be reported. The ugly side of real-life ministry is here in full force this week.

And you know what? God is faithful. God is changing lives. God is giving us wisdom. God is guiding. God is healing. God is providing. God is giving confidence. God is pruning. God is.

It seems like when it rains trouble … a flash flood of tough stuff isn’t far behind. If you are wading in some deep waters or think you may be in over your head, remember that God is there through it all. I know I could use the reminder right now, too.

That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10

JG



There’s a student causing a commotion in the room – what do you do? This simple and easily-remembered punch list (I think the first 3 are of Kurt Johnston origin with a new 4th “R” from me) will help you or your volunteers handle the situation well:

Request – this is the simple ask for improved behavior. This is almost always the right first step. I like one comment yesterday to a post saying give them “the eye” as a ‘pre-talking to’ move.

Reseat – move them closer to the leader or away from their partner in crime. I like to think of this as “within reach factor” or where a swift elbow to the ribs will bring him into line.

Remove – you may have to remove them from the situation. Remove them for a few minutes, or the rest of youth group, maybe take them home, or ask them to take a few weeks off. Removal is a necessary part of handling something like this. Lead with grace here and you won’t have regrets.

Relay – involve the parents. Make sure the parents are in the loop and ask them to partner with you on making sure the disruptive behavior doesn’t happen again.

If it is a new student, show more grace while they learn the culture of church and what is expected of them. Be quick to discipline a known offender, be slow to disciplining someone who you don’t have a relationship with at all. You may want to check out this older post called How to Remove a Student from Your Small Group as well. Other thoughts – remember they have to start with R?

JG

This week Kurt and I are going after a youth ministry fail in our lives in the past season of ministry, and sharing what we learned from the incident. You got to revel in Kurt’s mistake yesterday—here’s mine:

I was teaching a few weeks ago in youth group and during the talk we had a disruptive student. It was a little disruption at first, but a few minutes later we had a full-blown problem on our hands. A student was making all sorts of comments and noises from his seat—students were staring, whispering, and generally completely distracted by the situation. We found out later the teenager has a special medical need and didn’t have any control over what was coming out of his mouth. But the point is our team didn’t know what to do…so no one did anything.

FAIL: We weren’t ready to handle this situation. I’m left on stage trying to teach while this disruption is occurring and everyone is frozen or in a silent panic trying to figure out what to do.

LEARNING: The next week we put into place a simple 4-step process for dealing with disruptions during youth group:

1) The speaker never addresses the situation. Whoever is on stage models grace and pretends like nothing is going on. Motor through.

2) Don’t wait. Will someone else jump in? Let’s just take the “wait and see” approach to see if it gets worse. No…take action when any disruption occurs. From the giggles in the back of the room, to a full on meltdown, do something; don’t just stand there.

3) Take it outside. Ask the student to step outside of the room with you as discreetly as possible. Usually a knowing look or a fierce glare from a youth leader corrects poor behavior. When those don’t work, invite them to the exit for a talk.

4) Investigate what to do from there. Could this situation be fixed by simply reseating the person? What discipline is needed to correct this behavior? Handle each situation with incredible amounts of care and grace but balance firmness.

General rule of thumb: don’t let one ruin it for all. Where have you failed and what have you learned recently?

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here. Tomorrow look for a special guest post on ministering to a student with special needs that will be helpful to unpack that area for ministry as well. In hindsight it would have been wise to use another student as an example in this post. #FAIL