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Loving Students In Spite of Difficult Behaviors

Guest Post by Vickie Greatwood

In youth ministry you encounter many different students with many different backgrounds. Sometimes you may get students that exhibit difficult behaviors. But in so many cases, this acting out is in response to things that are going on in their personal life.

While it can be extremely challenging to deal with these behaviors, the compassion and patience you demonstrate might be the most positive influence in the student’s life.

It’s vital that you are the one who is the source of love and encouragement. But, that doesn’t mean it’s easy! How can we deal with keeping our cool in the midst of some of these rough behaviors? Aside from lots of prayer, here are some helpful things that can offer you hope in working through those difficult behaviors with your students.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

Students are always trying to push the envelope and see how much they can get away with. If you set clear expectations and consequences from the beginning, you need to stick to them. One of the hardest things to do is call parents to report bad behavior or follow through on other tough consequences. But if you don’t stand your ground then they will try to walk all over you. When you hold true to what you say, you not only gain their respect, but they will begin to see you as a leader.

Don’t Put Them in a Box

I asked a youth’s parent one time what her number one parenting advice would be. She told me to never put teens in a box. These years are the time in many students’ lives when they’re trying on different identities. Just because they are a certain way at one point in time does not mean they will stay that way forever. Putting a label on them can seriously stunt the growth in your relationship with them.

Believe in Them 100%

If students are expressing an interest in stepping out to lead a project or a sermon, give them a chance. When you get behind them in support, they just might surprise you with their leadership skills. You may even find that’s just the thing they needed to focus their energy on.

A Little Bit of Love Goes a Long Long Way

When all else fails, just love your students. Love them for where they are in their life. Don’t love them just when they behave or participate. Love them at all times! That’s something they can and will pick up on. And if they know that, they will begin to trust you.

If you are struggling with difficult behaviors, hang in there! Just continue to love them and know that as they begin to mature it will get easier. That student will never forget that you stuck by them, and you will never forget how much that student became one of your biggest teachers.

It’s tough but you will be so proud when you see how far students can go when someone believes in them.


Vickie Greatwood is the Youth and Young Adult Director at Francis Asbury United Methodist Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She has been in youth ministry for 2 years now and it is her heart to preach the word of God to teens and help them through the difficulties teenage years can bring. For more information on her youth program, visit www.francisasburyumc.org.

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Andy Blanks is the co-founder of youthministry360, a ministry committed to equipping youth workers through resources, training, community, and networking. Andy is passionate about God’s Word and the transformation it brings in the lives of God’s people. Andy is a writer, teacher, speaker, and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. He lives in Birmingham, AL with his wife and three daughters. Check out Andy’s youth ministry posts on the ym360 Blog (www.youthministry360.com/blog).