It’s your responsibility to gain and retain the attention of the students in your group. I don’t think you can expect students to automatically grant attention to you as speaker/leader just because you’re an adult or just because you’re up front. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts of getting and keeping their attention.

The DO’s

  1. DO use a strategic “cue”
    • “In just moment I will count to 3 and when I get to 3 I want everyone’s attention to be on me with no talking to your friends. Ready? Here we go…1…2…3.”
    • “Squirrel!”
    • “Knock-Knock …”
    • Leader: “Sharkbait!” Students: “Ooohaha!”
    • “Raise your hand if you’re not talking.”
    • Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap
    • Use a symbol of power to indicate who has the right to speak
    • Think ahead and come up with your own strategic means of gaining attention.
  2. DO use creative story-telling. Do this to get their attention for opening message or lesson opener.
  3. DO be respectful and gracious, kind, and loving if you have to redirect the group.
  4. DO be the adult and stay in control of the group’s dynamics.
  5. DO be clear and concise with any instructions, announcements, and messages. Plan ahead, prepare what you are going to say.
  6. DO clearly communicate your rules to all students.
  7. DO have a clearly outlined pathway for how misbehavior is handled. Ours is 1. Request 2. Reset 3. Remove 4. Release

The DON’Ts

  1. DON’T demand their attention or respect just because you’re the adult or leader.
  2. DON’T ever shame or embarrass a student in front of other students.
  3. DON’T use vague statements like “You better shape up!” or “Stop screwin’ around!” Be specific, clear, and positive in stating what you want them to do instead.
  4. DON’T ever use any sort of punishing tactics with any student in front of the group.
  5. DON’T expect them to follow a rule you haven’t communicated.
  6. DON’T let your own emotions get involved.
  7. DON’T let the behavior of one student ruin and monopolize the experience of the entire group. This includes not letting them monopolize your attention or emotions.

Author: Jim Murphy

Associate Pastor | NextGen Ministries Covenant Church, Bemidji, MN

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