As youth workers, we have all encountered the students who come to church because it’s something for them to do on Sundays and/or Wednesdays. Their apathy has become ignored and accepted and their actions annoy us but don’t surprise us. But the ones who really break your heart are the rebellious students. When I say “rebellious” here I am referring to the students who are actively involved in every part of your youth group, they show great potential, they come to you and ask you to keep them accountable, and when you keep them accountable like they asked they tell you to “butt out!” So what do you do with these rebellious students? Do you cut them off? Do you pretend like nothing happened and continue as if they never asked you to hold them to a higher standard? Where’s the balance between love and indulgence? Let me tell you that I don’t have all the answers. But I can share a couple of principles I try to keep in mind when dealing with these rebellious youth.
Number One: Don’t Hold a Grudge
Colossians 3:13 “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
Trust is a big issue for me and I find it especially hard to let go of the hurt I feel when I have been told to “butt out” by a student who came to me and asked for my help, especially if it’s a student that I have personally invested a lot of time and energy in mentoring. But with out forgiveness, the relationship will shrivel and die. Yes, what they said and did hurt my feelings but I can’t continue in un-forgiveness because then I am the one with the sin problem.
Number Two: Show Discipline Mixed with Love
Revelation 3:19 “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.”
I thought about using the word “consequences” here instead of discipline but I decided on discipline because that’s what God does, He disciplines His children so that they will repent and turn from the wrong path. So let me encourage you in this…Don’t discipline out of anger or to get even or to cut them out of your life. Discipline them because you love them and want them to make the right choices in the future. When you mix discipline with love the punishment always fits the crime, so to speak. If youth aren’t living the life they should be then they shouldn’t be in leadership. If they aren’t showing up for practices they shouldn’t be in the band or on the drama team. If you have the wrong attitude and are showing disrespect, you shouldn’t be rewarded for these actions. Reward the actions that you want to encourage and give reasonable consequences for the actions which need to be curbed and/or eliminated.
Number Three: Be Willing to Move On
Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Don’t dwell on the past and expect students to rebel every time. Self-fulfilling prophecies often come true because we act according to what we expect to occur so it happens because we assumed it would. From day to day and year to year, your students will grow and change just as you do. Sometimes the changes are quick and sometimes they aren’t positive but rest assured that change will happen. So why expect them to be the person that they were before? Yes, remember where you have come from. Learn from it, but don’t set up camp in the past. Get to the point where you are willing to allow these students opportunities to regain trust through making good decisions and being faithful in their commitments. Be willing to let them show you that their attitude has changed. Never forget where you have come from and the things that you have experienced because these are the things that impact and shape who you are, but always move forward.
These principles are not the perfect solution but hopefully they help you as they have helped me.