FIRST … determine who really needs to be corrected:
If it is a group problem, address it as a group.
If it’s a couple of people, pull them aside together.
If it is an individual problem, address the individual.
THEN … talk to the appropriate people.
Pull them aside
Don’t pull off a major correction in front of the whole group; make sure you pull people aside after group time and begin a conversation. If you are fortunate enough to have a co-leader and the situation is distractive enough, the co-leader could remove the student.
Be clear on what they’re doing wrong
Address the problem directly. If it is causing a problem with the whole group, help the student to see how his or her actions are distracting everyone. Usually a student will know, but some are so self-absorbed, they don’t realize how they are affecting those around them.
Be quick to show grace in this situation. You did it–you initiated the conversation and asked them to make the change. Be strong and firm, but followed quickly by love, mercy, and grace. The more seasoned the youth worker, the easier it usually is to show grace. If you are new to youth ministry, carefully temper your response. A line I used last night that had an immediate and positive response was, “You will never do that again.” Sometimes solving a behavioral issue will be that simple.
Look for and encourage correct behavior
Be on the lookout for when the student follows your rules–when you see it, make sure you comment on it and encourage the student when he or she has a good night. Your affirmation will be meaningful and restorative.
Followup later after a set amount of time
If appropriate, set a follow-up date to make sure that the student has made the appropriate changes. Use this time to build a stronger relational connection with your student–the bond will prevent it from happening again–or if it does happen again, you’ll have an open door to correcting the behavior.
If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding. Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor (Proverbs 15:31-33).
Some suggested youth ministry resources to help small group leaders: