Monday, February 25, 2008

the "bad' kids part 1

This past weekend we had our spring retreat with the youth ministries from the Tenth and Broad COC in Wichita Falls and the East Point COC in Wichita, KS. We met up at Pettijohn Springs Christian Camp in southern OK. This was a special weekend because we were able to bring in Benny and Nikki Nowell of the Sevens ministry in Boulder, CO. These three ministries coming together with the purpose of learning more about the love of the Father excited me. What was even more exciting is that I was able to bring 26 high school students, by far the most we have ever brought on a HS only retreat.

Yet this weekend was extremely difficult for me when it came to my group. I have been used to having pretty clean cut church kids who do what they are supposed to do and ones that you don't have to worry too much about. We have a large amount of those kiddos in our group yet we have a small but growing segment of teens who are rough, immature, and pretty hard to deal with. It seemed like this minority of the group really made it tough on the rest of the group.

What was striking to me about this group was that these kids (the difficult ones) are the ones that need to most love and attention yet will demand the most discipline. I am a horrible disciplinarian! What tends to happen is that I will let a lot of things slide then come down super hard on the kids when they have gone too far. I have never had a group of kids that I have to be constantly on the lookout for kids doing what they aren't supposed to do. A big part of me wants to tell them not to come. That is horrible, but it is how I feel sometimes.

I tend to heap a lot of this on me because I don't exactly know how to deal with kids who are perpetually "on the bad list". It would be easier to just love them and accept them as they are, but they become a drain on everyone else if their behavior is left unchecked. These are the things I have struggled with, especially how to keep the "balance" of discipline and love, expectation and acceptance.

I have much more to say about this so I will post a "part 2" soon. Post your thoughts if you would and we will keep the discussion going.


Brock Paulk said...

I'm anxious to be a part of the conversation - this is a big ministry weakness for me too...

Niki said...

First of all, it was a great retreat even though you were dealing with some difficult kids. I missed talking to you too, but we'll catch up sometime soon. ;)

As far as dealing with these kids,here's my two cents:

Regardless of the type of kids you have in your youth group, there should be a certain standard of behavior that you expect from them. It's non-negotiable. It's part of learning that they're not the center of the universe and there will be a level of respect for others or there will be consequences such as not being able to attend retreats that would be quite a drive for a parent to come and pick them up. It's for the good of everyone, believe me.

Even street kids show a certain level of respect and make the commitment to follow "the rules" while on ministry sponsored events like pool nights, bowling trips, movies, etc. If we can expect it from street kids, you can expect it from church kids. They will rise to the occasion. Like you said, they need the love and attention and they won't want to miss out on the opportunities you provide to give them that.

I have a hard time seeing you as a disciplinarian, not because you can't do it, but because I don't think you should have to. This may be overly simplified-especially because I don't know what issues you were dealing with last weekend-but I look at it like a contract. They make an agreement to behave a certain way. They get warnings (Like the 1-2-3 Magic program we use with our kids) and then there is a consequence. The choice was theirs. MOST of the time-we never get to 3.

The other thing I'm thinking about is taking a closer look at the cause of their behavior. Why are they considered a "bad kid"? Is there an issue that needs to be dealt with individually? Is it that they've not been taught how to behave or is it that they have been taught and they're just being turds?

Yes, this will be an interesting conversation indeed. :) I don't have all the answers, but we've been in youth ministry for a LONG time and I can tell you what worked and didn't work for us with the different youth groups we worked with.

Hang in there Chris. You're a good YM and your kids like you. :)

Brock Paulk said...

I'm ready for the rest of this discussion...what are you so busy with? Getting married or something?!?!?