I’ve been doing youth work in the city for over 13 years. I’ve been in some of the so-called “worst” areas of the city of Minneapolis. You could say that I’m somewhat well versed in dealing with difficult situations. I actually kind of enjoy the challenge of difficult situations because it forces you to think fast and keeps you on your toes.
My work in the city has been with young people specifically. Adolescents are the group that I love the most, especially middle school and high school students. Over the years, I’ve had my share of tough situations; some of those have gotten to the point where I’ve had to remove a student from a group or club. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years…
1. You must demand respect. I’m all about relational ministry, and I’m all about going after the farthest out kid. But there has to be a mutual respect amongst staff/volunteers and kids. I don’t allow kids to disrespect other kids, so I’m definitely not going to allow students to disrespect adults/authority figures. Once that kid crosses that line, they either need to apologize immediately or they need to leave.
2. You can’t save everybody. In ministry sometimes we take on a savior mentality, this is the “I can save every kid I come across” feeling that overwhelms leaders and staff. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with creating a space where everyone is welcome. We were made to be fishers of men/women as Paul stated. But we aren’t necessarily supposed to catch-all of the fish. Why do you think Jesus made disciples? So that they could go catch fish too! Every kid is not for you specifically to help, they ultimately need the help of our Heavenly Father.
3. Avoid yelling matches or public embarrassment. Now this one I tote the line with sometimes because I have no problem talking in a tone that I call my coach’s voice. We all know the coach’s voice; strong, direct, and it has no sounds of “I’m joking” in it. After telling a kid to stop talking while someone is giving a club talk, or being disrespectful in general, if a kid decides to get smart and go tit for tat with you on word play, don’t fall into the temptation of yelling back at them. You can be stern and serious without being disrespectful. No name calling back and forth because your confidence just took a few shots. Just walk over to them and ask them politely to step outside and/or leave. If they proceed, ask another leader to assist. If they refuse, you can threaten to call 911. That always works for me actually. Only a few times have I really had to call. But believe me, I was serious about it when I did. And trust me, if your kids are like mine, most kids want no part of dealing with the police.
Tough situations arise from time to time, and I hope that when you encounter them, this will help you handle them accordingly.