He kept talking and talking and talking. I had had enough. I stopped in the middle of my message and exclaimed, “Really?!” I had lost control over a situation that had escalated over the weeks. Everyone in the room knew it was coming the question was, “When?” and the answer was, “Right now.”

I was wrong in my actions. I should have never let it go that far. I’ve been doing youth ministry long enough to know how to deal with difficult teenagers.

There will be days in your youth ministry when you feel like you are shepherding little devils instead of sheep. You’ll wonder why you have no patience and why the teens are extra difficult. But, youth ministry isn’t about dealing with perfect teenagers, it’s embracing the good and the bad. In order to survive the messiness and not lose your mind you need to:

  • Confront Them Early On: Never let a problem fester. If a teen is difficult and you let it slide you could make the situation more complicated later on. Find a time when you can address the issue privately, so that you do not embarrass the teen. It also prevents a teen from being surprised if you address them over something big. By leaning in early, you give them plenty of heads up to change direction.
  • Partner Up: You might have an adult in your ministry that connects with the teen better than you. By partnering up you not only protect yourself from here-say, you give the teenager an objective party. Bringing in another person can diffuse and clarify a difficult situation.
  • Communicate With Parents: If a teenager tends to be a problem in your ministry talk with the parents. You might find out that the teen is acting out because of something at home or school. I had a teenager who was hard to deal with because I found out his parents didn’t give him his ADHD medicine on the weekends. What I was witnessing was a release of energy. Talk with parents to bring them into the know and to see if there is more to what you are seeing.
  • Develop A Plan: Do not carry the burden of addressing difficult teenagers on your own. Empower your volunteers by allowing them to address misbehaving teens. Know what you are going to do if a teen is disruptive once, twice and so on. Get ahead of the problem by having a strategy in place.

Difficult teenagers are not out to get you. They are reacting to what’s happening in their life. By putting together a plan and sharing the burden you can approach teens and help them adjust so that they are no longer a distraction.

How do you deal with difficult teenagers?