Dealing with drama at youth group

What suggestions do you have for this fellow youth worker?

Guy Hamilton contacted me with this question. What input can the rest of you give?

“I have just stepped into youth ministry and have encountered a serious “DRAMA” problem in the youth group. You know the whole gossip and “Your’e not my friend this week because you sat with so-and-so in worship last week” type of thing. Any help you can give is greatly appreciated.”

Oh man, the drama problems. Yeah, they’re all over. The worst is when it happens among your adult volunteers. The depravity of man is such a frustrating thing, but then I remember I’m no better than anyone else. Here are some tips that come to mind that might be helpful.

1. Saturate the ministry in prayer.
This should be happening anyway, but in case it isn’t, now is a good time to start. Service to the Lord always starts with prayer. The difference is amazing! I think we often underestimate prayer and think that our time is better spent actually working and “doing ministry.” Maybe because it looks better to tithers and feels more tangible for task-driven people.

2. Pick your battles.
Some drama is worth our intervention and some isn’t. If we get involved in every little event, we’ll soon become very frustrated and lessen our credibility when the big issues arise. Be willing to let the minor issues slide. Kids are capable of solving some problems on their own.

3. Be intentional about building relationships with the “drama queens.”
I’ve noticed that drama usually starts with a couple key people and spreads from there. Make sure that you or an adult leader is taking time to invest into each of those students individually on an on-going basis. Earn their trust and respect so when the drama issues are addressed there’s a relationship context already in place. They’ll be much more apt to listen to someone who has already proven that they care about them than someone just serving as a youth group authority figure.

4. Address the drama individually in love.
No matter how frustrated you may feel, be careful about standing in front of a group and condemning them all. Instead, within the context of the relationship that’s already built, sit down with each student and talk with them about it. “Hey Sarah, Jennifer looks pretty upset that she’s not your friend this week just because she sat with Holly last week. Why is it so important to you that she always sits with you?”

5. Use each drama issue as a teaching moment.
We all know that the best teaching moments are not the times we stand in front of a group and preach a mini sermon. The best teaching moments are the everyday real-life situations that we’re privileged to be a part of, including drama. If appropriate and both parties are willing, bring them together to apologize and use passages like Ephesians 4:29 and Romans 12:18, not in a preachy way, but as a reminder that this is how scripture applies to our life.

6. Be willing to go through the process many times.
Drama issues are not a once-in-lifetime experience. They’ll be ongoing, usually between the same little group of students. Be patient with them. God knows He’s more than extremely patient with us in all our shortcomings! Be willing to sit down and address the major drama issues in love as often as necessary. Challenge them to grow rather than expecting them to come to youth group as perfectly mature teenagers.

7. Make sure youth group remains a safe place.
In extreme cases when totally inappropriate situations arise that can be physically or emotionally harmful to other individuals, discipline is necessary. As much as it pains us to do so, a student may need to be dismissed from youth group for a while. Never sacrifice the whole group for the sake of keeping one or two students around. Dismissing students from youth group can be tricky, though. From my experience in having done this before, make sure you communicate first with the church leadership and parents, then your adult volunteers and lastly talk with student and explain the discipline. If certain kids are involved with the dismissed student, you may need to talk with them privately, too, and explain what’s going on, but don’t tell the whole youth group and make a spectacle out of the kid. In following Christ’s example with us, always discipline with the idea of restoration in mind. No kick should be permanent. Meet with that kid every week in place of youth group just to hang out, talk and pray together. Communicate love throughout the whole process.

8. Have realistic expectations.
Remember that teenagers are still growing and maturing. Don’t expect youth group to be a place void of drama or conflict. Instead, love them, guide them through the restoration process when necessary, use it as a teaching experience and encourage them to resolve some conflict on their own.

Posted on May 29, 2007

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