I was hired to be the pastor to middle school students at my church in May of 2005. Previous to my hire, I had been involved in youth ministry for 7 years in a volunteer or intern capacity. But, this is my first time being in charge. The group that I took over was a fairly established group with a short, but successful history. However, when I was hired, they had been without a pastor for nine months. So, a portion of my job has been to kind of "reboot" the system. I've had to evaluate how things were done in the past, examine the present needs, and determine the direction to take the group into the future.
One of the things I began to tackle right away was our weekend service. It didn't have very much structure when I first stepped in, so I knew the road ahead would take some time. I didn't think it would be hard work because I thought teaching new games wouldn't be well-received, or because I thought that the students wouldn't like my teaching style. I thought it would be hard work because I knew what would be required was a culture change.
CULTURE is defined as the attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group.
So, I've been trying to build a culture in our weekend services for almost two years now. One of the hurdles I've encountered is that of keeping my students quiet during the message. I don't mind that they whisper or ask each other questions. But, i have students that treat my messages as if they were conversations. I'll be in the middle of teaching when I say something that joggs a memory in them, so they do what any kid would: they tell the story. The only problem is, they tell me the story while I'm teaching. AND LOUD!!! Of course, I try to handle the situation as best as I can. Our first line of defense is our leaders, who sit in the audience with the kids. If needed, I will occasionally make a correction from the stage. Lastly, I would ask the student to remain behind after service to talk with me. But none of this has left a lasting impact on the service. Every week, some kid will yell out some random story or comment.
So, I pose this question to you, the reader: How do you encourage students to stay quiet without stifling their curiosity or using the whole "Be quiet or I'll talk to your parents" form of discipline? Share your thoughts with me...