What To Do When a Student Shouts “Shut the &^%@ Up!”

It was chaotic and exciting all at the same time.

It was a season in our youth ministry when we were having lots of non-Christian students come.  This is great but it is also messy.

Imagine 60% of your students sitting near the front wanting to engage with the worship or at least be able to hear what was being said on the stage.

Now the other 40% are sitting in the back of the room, turning their chairs in circles and talking loudly.  It was chaotic, loud, and not that productive.  I should expected what happened next…

Things Got Messy

In this season of ministry I realized that evangelism is messy.  In my head I thought it would work out so nicely.  Students would be getting saved and having huge life transformations.  It didn’t work exactly like that.

Influence The Leader To Influence The Crowd

As a leadership we decided we had to get a handle on the situation.  The students that want to mature in their faith were having a hard time doing this.  Also the students that didn’t know Jesus weren’t listening long enough to hear about Him.

So I used a leadership 101 principle.  Influence the leaders so they will influence the group.  In this group of students the biggest leader was Shaq.  He was tall, good-looking, played basketball, and the girls liked him.

Get them On Side -Food Helps!

So I offered to buy Shaq lunch.  We had a great time talking and hanging out.  Then I asked if he could help encourage his friends to engage with the service and listen.  He was totally cool with helping out.

So during our next service it was more of the same.  The back section were all talking and not engaging with the service.  I got Shaq’s attention and suggested he say something to his friends.  He agreed.

Shaq stood up and in a loud voice told everyone to, “Shut the F… Up!!!”  My mouth dropped open.  It was not what I was expecting.

Slap Him Or Love Him?

In that moment I was having a debate in my head.  Do I slap Shaq or hug him?  He knew no better.  He was trying to help.  But to my knowledge that is the first time those words had been said so clearly in that church.

This is what I learned from this experience.

  1. Sinners Will Act Like Sinners

It is unfair to ask people that do not know Jesus to try to act like Him.  They are doomed to fail.  Change your expectations.

  1. Grace Will Get You Farther Than Anger

When a student frustrates you or disappoints you respond with grace.  You will be light years ahead in discipleship and evangelism with this response over anger.  Anger creates barriers.

  1. Evangelism Is Messy

Really, people are messy.  We don’t minister to students because it is easy, simple or clean.  Have the mindset knowing that it will be difficult and awkward at times.  But also remember that there are few things more rewarding than walking with a student towards a relationship with Jesus.

Let me know how you would have handled this situation?

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Tyson Howells

Tyson is the associate youth ministry director for Vanguard Youth Ministry Institute. He has been a youth pastor for many years in Winnipeg as well as in Edmonton. Tyson is passionate in seeing relational youth ministry that results in youth that are passionate about following Jesus. He still leads a small group at the youth group in his home church.


  1. I know the feeling! The F-bomb was dropped by one of my high school students (recent convert) who came to help out with the middle school summer camp. We were about to start morning devotion time and the students were still talking ,”the F-bomber” was a big guy and yelled “shut the @#%! up were gonna have a Bible study” The kids went quite and I rolled with it.

    • Tyson Howellssays:

      Thats a great story Mike. If you work with students it is only a matter of time before you have to deal with an F-bomb.

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