My first day driving solo has many parallels to the first year in youth ministry. In both cases I had the training necessary, and in both cases there were unique scenarios that were hard to prepare for. The bus I drove had seen its fair share of new drivers. To be sure they were rather sick of being passed off to the next victim. I was too young to really care what they thought. I just wanted to drive them home.
That first day I was looked at funny, but largely ignored. Then this one girl got on the bus. She wore her attitude on her sleeve and it was not positive. Her whole posture told me that she did not think too highly of me, or anyone in authority. She confirmed my suspicion when she went immediately to the very back seat. We all know that only the naughty kids sit that far back, right?
My bus route had me leaving the high school and stopping at the middle school. From there I would then be able to take the gracious children home. The fun began when I pulled out of the school into traffic and the back third of the bus, under the direction of their ring leader, miss attitude, stood up. I guess they thought that this was some form of silent protest. I don’t know what they wanted me to do. I just know that I needed to do something about it. I stopped the bus. I turned around and said something like: “look, you want to get home just as much as I want to get you there. The only way that is going to happen is if you sit down and lose the attitude.”
There was a pause. Nobody said anything. I said nothing else, content on sitting there all day if I had to. She rolled her eyes at me and sat down. When she sat down the rest of them did also. The next day she actually looked at me with a little more kindness. I never had a problem with her again.
Fast forward to my first year of youth ministry. I was teaching a class on a Wednesday night that was attended by a variety of kids. There were a number of kids that had more attitude then they could handle. One kid decided he wanted to sit on the floor. I told him that was not going to work, as I wanted everyone to sit on a chair and participate. He sat on the floor in defiance.
I told him: “Your choices are to sit on the chair and join us or leave. Either way, just make up your mind.” He left. The interesting thing is that maybe 20 minutes later he came back and sat down on a chair. I never had another problem with him again.
People will naturally push things. The scenarios are different, but the lesson is the same: There will always be one. More often than not there will be more than one. All of them deserve clear direction, respect, and love. None of them deserve to just get their way all the time. How you handle the trouble makers from the start will impact your ministry going forward. Don’t allow things to get out of hand. It is important to be clear on what is expected, address those who don’t adhere to it, and be confident about it. Respect comes with clear, consistent direction.
This is part of The Sunday Series “My School Bus Youth Ministry.” If you missed others, check out The Sunday Series tab above.