Youth ministry is a wonderful thing. Being able to see the growth of students over the course of their middle and high school years is a privilege that few get to be a part of. However, there is an issue that comes up that many youth pastors may not want to readily admit: their students have problems with another. This may not seem like a big deal to some; however, in the scheme of things, it is. Christ has called us to unity (1 Corinthians 12:13). If there is a problem in the church congregation between members, the problem is to be resolved. Does not the same go for youth?
I had this issue happen about five months ago between two of my students, one middle school and one high school. It started a month prior to that and I didn’t realize what a problem it became until an entire month passed. So, I did what any youth pastor who was still new to working with youth and ministry did: spoke to the middle school student’s parents as he was the instigator. Two words I would like to offer for this: Bad idea. I’ll spare the details, but it caused quite a rift and half of my youth group was gone after what happened (though that was related to other issues as well, but we have all since reconciled and they have come back, praise God!). I have learned a great deal since this incident and wanted to share how conflict between students in your youth group should be handled. It doesn’t matter if you have 10 or 100, as it needs to be handled the same.
1. Speak to each party involved about what the problem is and how it started.
Do this separately and with another volunteer present. This will help you understand both sides of the story as well as remove any bias that may be present if you were to just talk to one party.
2. Bring the students together in a quiet setting, away from the other students, with yourself and another volunteer present.
They do not need to get involved in the drama. Allow the two students to discuss what happened. Remember, Ephesians 4:26 says to not let the sun go down on your anger; that is, work things out with somebody as soon as you can so as to not allow Satan to take a foothold in them.
3. Help them find a solution, apologize and forgive one another, and pray together that this incident may bring more unity to their relationship as well as to the youth group.
Remember, getting the parents involved is a last resort, only to be used in extreme cases such as credible threats of bodily harm to another student, volunteer or yourself. Part of your job as a youth pastor is to help them grow into young adults who will serve Christ and each other and part of this means helping them resolve conflict with each other as their parents cannot always be there to help them out of a conflict that they may or may not have initially started.
Jonathan Smith is a youth pastor in his second year of ministry at Crossview Church, located in Marietta, Georgia. He has been married to his wife Miki for just over two years. In his free time, Jonathan enjoys reading, writing, blogging and video games. You can connect with Jonathan on his blog, Facebook or Instagram.