The Day After Students Attack

This is part 2 of last night’s post, When Students Attack. I highly recommend reading that post before reading this one.


As I mentioned last night, at some point, when nothing else positive can be accomplished, it’s time to end the conversation and let the truth sink into the student’s mind. Today that paid off.

When we saw each other tonight, I could tell he was a little standoffish, but that was about it; which is strange because I can read people pretty easily.

Without going into the whole story, I’ll share some bullet points of how I follow up on a student who attacks. Hopefully this will be useful for other youth workers.

– Set ground rules of communication: The first thing I did tonight was calmly express that his tone and accusations last night were not acceptable. A youth worker who values being a friend more than being a leader will never be able to do that. We’ve got to set that important boundary to establish our authority and leadership in the lives of students; for their good as well as our own. I told him that he needed to communicate what he wants rather than slam me later for not doing what I didn’t know he wanted.

– Work one by one through the issues: We talked about each issue he wanted to discuss last night. I asked follow up questions to each of his issues. We had a good conversation methodically working through everything on his mental list. After we went about as far as I felt he wanted on each topic, I asked if there was anything else. Giving him the chance to say no was important, even if I knew that was the answer. I wanted him to verbalize the fact that he got the opportunity to speak his mind entirely.

– Affirm the healthy way to communicate: At the end of our discussion, I mentioned how much better it felt to discuss these issues and for him to communicate what he wanted to talk about in a healthy more mature way than he had last night.

– Reaffirm my availability and eagerness to meet in the future: It’s important for him to know that I want to talk as much as he needs as much as I’m available. He needs to know that he’s got somebody on his side who wants to help him process what’s on his mind. This part of the discussion also involves contrasting the ugliness of his attacks last night to the closeness we felt as we talked today. I said I don’t love conflict and I don’t bring it on myself, but I love the benefits of handling conflict well. We’re closer for taking the ugliness of last night and working through it in a healthier way today.

– End in prayer: I like to hold the hand of the student I’m praying for. Side note, I never do this type of counseling with girls. Youth workers should counsel students of the same gender, if possible. I prayed over him for the issues he expressed, over his family and his future in ministry.

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Dennis Beckner
Dennis Beckner has served in youth ministry leadership for Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA since 1999. Dennis is a contributor and speaker to youth training events, writing projects and other engagements. Contact him at his blog, VolunteerYouthMinistry.com.