How to Deal With Disruptive Students

I’ve decided that from now on, when I give a message, I’m now going to have a giant bowl of foam balls right next to my side. I’ve decided that every time I catch a student talking, texting, or doing something that’s a distraction, I’m going to take one of these foam balls, and chuck it at them just hard enough to get their attention, but not too hard to get in trouble.

How’s that sound?

In all seriousness, when it comes to dealing with disruptive students we try to be as subtle as possible. We ask students to quiet themselves when they become too loud. We’ll move them around if they’re distracted, and then give them a firm, yet, loving talk when the evening is wrapping up. Most times this works. However, there are those other times when we just want to pull our hair out.

Chances are if you’re a middle school youth minister, you’ve got a few disruptive students.
:) Now, don’t get me wrong: I love middle school students because they’re animated, impressionable, and a little unpredictable. You mix this with raging hormones, and rapid body changes, and well, good luck finding a captive audience.

Unfortunately, disruptive behavior can go beyond the middle school years up into the last few in high school. Many times our ministries are reactive to these situations when we should be seeking to be proactive. While some students will be disruptive no matter what, there are a few areas we can approach to cut down on misbehavior.

Those areas are:

Atmosphere And Environments

During my first two years in ministry, I had the middle school students sit in metal chairs. This was a bad idea, one because every time they moved the chairs (which was about every 10 seconds) it made noise, and secondly it wasn’t comfortable. For some ministries it works. However, not for ours. With adjustments in lighting, seating, and even temperature, we’ve found an environment that works. Even after we find environments that work, we do our best to tweak and adjust with each new group of students.

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Chris Wesley
Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met my wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, heI was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.