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A 3rd Rail of Youth Ministry – Removing a Student From My Group

This blog post is a little bit heavy. I share it with the intent of helping others think through their actions if they ever have to remove a student from their ministries. This isn’t one I enjoyed writing, but if my goal is to help other in-the-trenches youth workers, I have to share the ugly stuff, too.

This week I had to do something very difficult in the ministry I lead. In my 17 years of serving students, I’ve never had to remove one from my ministry. That changed this week. She and her family are still part of our church and her parents are very involved. She’s still attending our High School Ministry, just not the ministry I lead.

Rather than going into the “why” of the matter, I’m going to share some important actions I took which made this a less explosive situation (and two actions I could have done better):

What I did right:
1. I had solid reasons for making the decision. Nothing was personal against her or out of anger on my part
2. I gave the situation a month and a half cooling period. The student was not allowed to attend during that time. We revisited the situation prior to making the final decision
3. I discussed the situation with trusted and confidential advisers
4. I clearly communicated my reasons (which I had to do a few times)
5. I made my superiors aware of my decision and the reasons behind it before announcing it to the family. Part of this was seeking their support, part of it was allowing them the opportunity to give guidance if they wanted

What I could have done better:
1. Making the decision: Although I did have a brief conversation with her parents by phone before making the decision, I should have had a more in-depth conversation in person
2. Communicating the decision: I communicated this decision over the phone. I should have done it in person. I did have a follow up meeting in person which went very well.