Diffusing the disruption

Matt: We’ve all had that student in a group that, although he means well, he is a disruption to your small group or to your event. The one who has a comment about everything, the one who makes an annoying sound or noise, either for attention or just to continually express his emotion. The problem is this student can quickly take over a group meeting or make you lose the momentum you were building. Even worse, it can shut down a student who needs to talk.

One of the best ways to deal with this type of student is to set ground rules for them. Pull them aside before or after group, don’t do it in front of everyone. Let them know the problem that is being caused and how you would like them to act. Let them know you care about them, but you also care about the group and you can’t allow disruptions. Sit next to them during group time if necessary so you can remind them to settle down. Talk to their parents–what you’re seeing in group they are probably seeing at home. Find out how they deal with it. If they were in another group, talk to that leader and see what they did to deal with the problem. Pray about it, ask God to give you the right words to say.

You don’t want to shut down this student from any participation but you also don’t want them ruining your small group time. Find a balance where you can control the situation and keep the student involved at the same time.

Steven: Matt’s right… we’ve all had that one student. In junior high, it tends to be the 4 or 5 students, but once you know how to deal with them it’s not as big a deal. There are a few general rules I follow that typically* diffuse a student from totally derailing your group.

  • Announce your expectations before there’s a disruption. Lay down the ground rules and let your students know what you expect them to do and what they can expect from you.
  • If a disruption happens first in group time, address it generally in group time. Don’t be too specific about that one student, but let everyone know that your expectations aren’t being met.
  • If it keeps happening, pull that student aside after the group is over. Don’t be specific with him or her in the moment, but don’t let it pass either.
  • If, despite all your best efforts, you still can’t get your student(s) to stop being disruptive, it may be time to call in reinforcements–the parents. Let them know of your expectations and that their child hasn’t met them. If need be, they may need to take a week or 2 off from group.

*Even though these tips will work most of the time, they’re definitely not foolproof. There are some students that disrupt for a specific reason, and you need to figure out what that is before it can be diffused. Different students need different types of attention.

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