To help our small group leaders stay in control, we use simple a four step process for behavior management (4 R’s inspired by Josh Griffin’s post on his blog at


Ask the student very clear and certain words to change the exact behavior that is disruptive. If you’re too vague he won’t understand. If you’re not clear her behavior will continue. And don’t ask more than once. You ruin your chances of keeping control if you keep asking over and over. Ask one time and be very clear. Then move on to the next step.


If the student continues the disruptive behavior, either move her to another place in the group or place yourself next to her in the circle.


If this doesn’t change the behavior, ask the group to stay seated right where they are and take the disruptive student away from the group for a private 2 minute conversation. Make sure the student really understands what they are doing wrong. Make sure he knows exactly what your expectations are. And, make sure he knows exactly what the next and final step is. Furthermore, ask the him a couple of questions to try to understand why he is misbehaving. Look for the answer behind the answer. Behavior always has an underlying reason: problems at home, stress at school, low self-esteem, etc.


You cannot allow this student to ruin the experience for the rest of the group. She must be released. Arrange with your small group leader to contact you or some other volunteer/staff member to come take the student out of the group (we used to give all our small group leaders two way radios to contact me or my assistant but now we use our cell phones). I always meet with the student to talk about the next steps which usually includes a conversation with parents (if appropriate), one more chance or they’ll be asked to not come back for two or three weeks, or some other arrangement.

This process only works if the small group leader really enforces it. Unfortunately, many small group leaders are afraid to follow through with it because they don’t won’t to offend the students, or be the “big bad wolf” type. I try to encourage them that they don’t have to worry about this as long as they do it with sincere kindness.

Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

2 Replies to “4 Step Process for Behavior Management

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