Much has been made and written about the unique relationship between youth pastor and student or students that show leadership potential. Tons has been said about the kid that a youth pastor just sees himself in…this is not about that kid. This is about the other kid. You know who he/she is. And chances are, they know it too. They are the last kid to get picked up for everything, yet somehow they also seem to show up way earlier than everyone else too. They are the first to sign up for every event and the last to get their money in. It doesn’t matter where you go, this kid is in every church. How do you deal with him/her?
When I was 22, and the wisest youth pastor on the planet, I avoided him. That didn’t stop him. from calling, texting, and emailing me several times a week. (In the decade and a half since then, he has also gained the ability to tweet, poke, message, snap DM etc.) Not that I responded very often. He was awful. He’d yell while I was teaching, dance like Shakira during worship, and then try to act like we were best friends after youth group. About once a month I would call his aunt, the fact that his home was beyond broken didn’t affect my attitude towards him, to report his disruptive behavior. He’d apologize, and then do it all again. So I quit. I didn’t stop the other kids from talking about him behind his back, and I certainly didn’t go out of my way to spend time with the most obnoxious kid in the youth group. He left the church. Maybe it was inevitable, and maybe it wasn’t. I will answer for that. That was several churches and almost 15 years ago.
But it hasn’t changed. The same thing happens each and every week at my church and yours. The kid who shows up earliest and goes home last, because he/she isn’t wanted anywhere else, is there. She is bugging the other kids, he is disrupting you while you teach or when you are frantically trying to put the finishing touches on your message. You would call home, but you know it won’t help.
I haven’t got this figured out all the way, but I’ve made some progress. It’s not always fun, and it costs time you would rather be pouring into other kids. But here’s the truth, the reason we want to pour into those other kids is that someone already has. That is why they are a little more mature and fun to be around. This one is immature and obnoxious because no one has cared enough to do anything about it. Sure you’ve cared enough to call, or discipline, but have you cared enough to really do something? Besides prayer, I am finding that time and responsibility are the two biggest weapons I can bring to the table. Every week when those two or three come in, I have assignments for them now. If you are here because you don’t feel important anywhere else, I am going to put you to work. This gives them purpose, and me the time I need to finish my prep. I am also finding that when you give them the one on one attention that they so desperately seek, they usually do not know what to do with it. Most likely because they haven’t been given it enough. So now I get to direct the conversation and our time together.
I am still figuring this out, but I do know that I don’t want to lose another kid because I was annoyed.
Andrew Larson