What are we to do? Where do we draw the line? How do we decide when they have gone to far? How far can we go to control a students actions? Do we kick them out? Do we yell? Do we let it slide? Do we not worry about it? What do we do to prepare our students for the choices they have to make?
Junior High Ministers, Volunteers, Parents, and Grandparents have all asked these same questions before. We struggle knowing when is the right time to discipline. If we do not discipline our students then chaos will happen. Chaos does not respond to anything let alone discipline. We have to know what is appropriate at the right time. We have to decide when to discuss these issues, and who to discuss them with.
Over the years I have got to work with what I would say are some of the best students, parents, and volunteers that exist in ministry. I have had students who did dishes at my house when nobody asked them too. I’ve had parents who blessed us by organizing a way for our students to thank us for the work we do. I’ve had volunteers come and say they wanted to take over a certain area of ministry, so that I could focus more on the students. I have been so lucky to learn and share with all of these people.
BUT I have also dealt with students who will mouth off to you in the middle of a message. I have dealt with parents who only want to think about what their child wants. I have had volunteers who have made very bad choices in their conversations with students (FYI…never get so mad you cuss out a student). With these issues I have had to decide when to discipline (if that is what we call it). So lets think about this for a minute. When and how should we discipline students? We all know that if students do not understand what is expected of them then we cannot expect anything but chaos.
I would like to give you a list of Ideas to prepare for all of this, and then tell you how I handle it.
1. Set clear expectations for your students. In our junior high ministry we have one clear expectation for our students. That expectation is RESPECT. We expect respect with our hands, eyes, ears, mouth, feet, and even phones. We expect students and adults to show respect to others with their whole body. We obviously go into detail about some of the areas of respect from time to time, but this keeps it simple. This allows our adults and students to know what is expected from them all the time.
2. Repeat your expectations. Don’t just say it or post it on the wall. Discuss the expectations on a regular basis. Make sure everyone understands what they need to do. We will ask from time to time what our one rule/expectation is and several kids will shout out respect. Even if you have new students you now have created the opportunity to explain what is expected of them.
3. Follow through with love. Many times we think of Discipline as a time we have to come down hard on a student, but really it can be a relationship building time for many adult leaders. If you have to pull a student aside or even out of class remember that students are going to make bad choices. Our goal is to encourage them to make better choices. Many times this can be handled through a quiet conversation and explanation of why the behavior needs to change.
4. Be Consistent. Never show favorites when it comes to discipline. Make sure everybody understands that they are all equals. If you have an adult leader that will not be quiet then ask them to show respect just like you would your students. Sometimes this can be an eye opener for your students that you are really serious about what you do.
5. Make Disciples! Matthew 28 tells us that we are to Go and make disciples. We have rules, expectations and discipline to control the chaos that junior high students create. If we truly love our students and want to make disciples out of them then we will do these things. It is for there benefit.
I love working with junior high students, but there was a time I found it very difficult to get through to them. The reason was there was too much chaos taking place. We have to have clear expectations which allows our students to have fun and learn in a healthy environment.
How do you handle this area of ministry? What expectations do you have for your students? I would love to hear about the way you try to create an environment where learning can take place. Leave a comment!