youth worker, student ministry, youth ministry

Discipline is Required For Discipleship

By Doug Franklin July 17, 2013

For many in youth ministry, discipleship takes place in small groups. But sometimes it doesn’t happen because small group leaders feel overwhelmed when they can’t get control of the group’s behavior. A few weeks ago, a youth worker shared with me that his biggest problem was helping his small group leaders take control of their groups. He told me students were rude, not listening and sometimes disrespectful of the leader. Even worse, the small group leaders were just letting it happen. They were afraid that disciplining students would make them unhappy and they wouldn’t return to small group.

First off, I have never seen discipleship take place outside of a disciplined environment. After all, discipleship requires honest reflection and deep application. If students are going to spend their small group time mouthing off and disrespecting the adult leader, then just cancel the small group because its not going to work.

If your adults want to get control and return the group to discipleship, then think about training on the following:

1. Change the environment
When I lead a small group, the first thing I talk about is what I want to accomplish and how we are going to make that happen. I let student’s know they have the option of leaving if they are here for another reason. Then I tell them that if someone’s behavior is not going the way I want to go, I will ask them to leave the room and wait outside. After group is over, I will tell that student I love them as much as I ever have, but they can’t be in the room when they are not going my way.

The key is follow through…. I usually only have to kick out one student before the other students get that I will keep my word. Remember, most adults don’t follow through on discipline. When you do, students will understand you mean business.

2. Know the purpose of discipleship
Discipleship is serious stuff. We know from research that when a believer is not discipled, they won’t disciple others. Ultimately, they won’t affect culture or bring more people to Christ. They will be luke-warm.

3. Focus on results
Most adult small group leaders are just trying to get through the time. Change that perspective. Clarify the job description for the small group leader. Remind them that small groups are not designed to make students happy but to make students His. When that goal gets changed, we lose our purpose and a small group without purpose is just another hang out time.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More