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How to confront a student

This recently came up in our youth ministry and forced me to think through it rather quickly. What’s the best procedure for confronting a student who’s involved in something dangerous, criminal, or very inappropriate? Here’s what came to mind:

What NOT to do

  1. Don’t freak out and jump to conclusions.
  2. Don’t bring up all your references or defend your reasons for having a suspicion.
  3. Don’t be accusatory or express disappointment or anger that will cut off communication.
  4. Don’t avoid the situation or hope someone else will take care of it.

What TO do

  1. Pray about it. Ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment.
  2. Meet with the student one-on-one (or with another adult if you’re the opposite gender).
  3. Communicate your love and support and let the student know you’re on their side, but also express your concerns.
  4. Let the student know that you must share your concerns with their parent(s), but that you wanted to respect them and talk with them about it first.
  5. Be forthright. Don’t beat around the bush. Just come out and ask what you need to ask.
  6. Ask straight-up questions and expect straight-up answers in return.
  7. Report the situation to the Sr. Pastor.
  8. Talk with the parents after meeting with the student and share with them your impressions and any recommendations you have about the situation.
  9. Report to the appropriate authorities as necessary.
  10. Pray for the student.
  11. Be available to follow-up with the student.
  12. Be willing to be an accountability partner if agreed by the student.

I know every situation is different and there are grey areas in this list, so think of it as a rough guideline. What input can the rest of give?


Posted on October 9, 2007

  • Joy

    Tim, i think the one about asking questions is one of the most important ones on that list. Without it, you run a serious risk of addressing the wrong problem or accusing a student falsely altogether. And, if you ask a student what happened, often they’ll confess to at least part of it, which is good for them and also reduces a lot of tension.

  • The only other thing that I would add would be to give the student some options in talking with their parents. Realizing that not all families are from Mayberry and that some students legitimately fear for their safety when it comes to being found out by their parents I like to give three options.

    1. The student goes to their parents and talks to them by their self. (I follow up with parents after to ensure the student had the conversation and give any additional insight/advice.)
    2. I go with the student as they share with their parents what has been going on. (more for moral support but also in case the situation gets out of hand.)
    3. I go with the student and speak directly to the parents about the situation and facilitate conversation between student and parents.

    One way or the other the situation is communicated to the parents and I speak with them directly. By giving the students these options it reinforces the student feeling cared for and loved through the situation. It also allows for more open dialogue with the parents before, during, and after the situation. As we strive to partner with parents this helps send the message that we are for them – and their student.

  • Tim

    @ Kevin: You’re absolutely right. Thanks for input! That actually helps a lot.

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