I have problems in my youth group. What should I do?


Well, I am having some issues with some kids that I mentor. My group has both guys and girls in it, but I found a good woman mentor for the girls, so I will be handing off the girls soon..

The funny thing is I have little or no problems with the girls. It is the guys who are backstabbing each other and me as well. I have one kid tell one of the girls I'm untrustworthy. Well, he's probably told all of them. He is telling the others not to trust me. His parents don't like me because of past stuff that had nothing to do with their kid. For some reason he's turning to me with his issues and telling me everything, and yet backstabbing me at the same time.

Then another guy is turning to one of the girls about his masturbation issues and pornography. I got a call very late at night from one of the girls saying, "Hey (blank) just called me. He told me about his porn issues and everything that goes along with that." He's been telling her other stuff as well. The kid is going to lead a small group, and he isn't turning to me, or any other of the guy leaders with these issues. He knows he's not supposed to turn to a girl for those issues, so he is breaking what he already knows and preaches at people. I'm thinking of kicking him out of leadership if he doesn't turn to one of us. He won't take the practical steps to get pornography out of his life, such as move the computer out of his room into the living room. Or, get rid of movies that are not great for the mind. Or, use the xxxchurch thing which shows every web site that is questionable that you have been to every two weeks to keep him accountable. So I'm kind of stuck with that kid as to what am I going to do.

These are guys I thought were going to be great, but they fight me every step of the way. So I am trying to decide if I want to replace them or not. It's sad because I've known these kids for several years. They wanted to get mentored and now I don't know. I treat them all like they're my own blood and still be very stern with them if they are going the wrong way.

Ever since I was stern with the one who has the pornography problems he's totally taken steps backwards. I wasn't mean to him, but he was being possessive about one of the girls in groups saying she can't talk to anyone or hang out and he's going to call a guy who likes her and tell him to stop talking to her and that she shouldn't play soccer because its bad because of the guys, etc. So I stopped that in its tracks as best as I could, but ever since then the guy hasn't gone to me. I corrected him sternly the second time because after I talked to him, he admitted without me saying anything to being 100% in the wrong. The next day he calls the girl up and does it all over again. I talked to him a long time on the phone saying "Dude, what is happening here? Did we not go over this, and had a long conversation?"

My guys want a woman badly and they are failing in this struggle to get comfort from a woman. I'm stuck because my girls and some of the boys are doing awesome, but two boys are falling hard in those issues of their life and they are turning on me. They will fight me tooth and nail in front of me, but also backstabbing me the other way and not turning to me or another guy leader. I am thinking of sitting all the guys down and tell them this is where it stops. You need to choose if you are serious about God or if you are just tooting your horn and doing it for the girls. Are you just doing it because you know it's the right thing to do or are you not really interested.

Anyway, sorry. I'm probably at fault in a lot of this, but I need some godly advice about where to go and what I am doing wrong or right. So anything will help. Again thanks for the time and sorry for the long e-mail that probably could of been summed up in half of a page or less.


What is making this overwhelming is that you are trying to address all the issues together instead of breaking each one down. Of course, I don't know everything that is going on, but let me try to isolate a few of the issues for you so that how you deal with them will become clearer. I'll try to be fair about them and give everyone something to work on, including you.

First, let's deal with the big issue. You have a boy caught up in pornography. That is a sin because he is committing fornication in his mind. That sin, left unresolved, will keep him out of heaven. That is the issue. All the group dynamics pales to that one issue.

There is a simple reason he is telling one of the girls about his sins: he finds it sexually stimulating to talk "dirty" to a girl in the guise of discussing a problem. A girl doesn't need to know that a friend of her's is masturbating to pornography. He is after the shock because it gives him a thrill. He is talking to her because he knows deep down that she can't solve the problem for him. But her empathy is also trapping her to listen. He might have not thought this far ahead, but eventually he will hope her sympathy for his self-created plight will spur her to "rescue" him, but he will define the "rescue" on his terms.

His actions also indicates he is attempting to isolate one of the girls. This is a typical abusive pattern. By cutting off support, contradictory ideas, or competition, he has a greater chance of success in manipulating her. As before, I don't know if he fully realizes what he is doing, but the pattern is clear.

His reaction to being rebuked says that he doesn't agree that his sin is wrong. He doesn't have an argument against what you said, so the alternative is to "shoot the messenger." Stop seeing this as a personal assault. This is about a sinner looking for ways to justify his sin. You told him he was wrong, so naturally as an authority figure you are in the way. "It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:25-28).

To address this problem, you need to do something that is both hard and dangerous. It will be hard because you are going to have to deal with some ugly issues. You are likely to become "the enemy" to this boy, at least for a while. We'll try to avoid it, but I don't know the personalities involved and can't predict the reaction. I just want you to be prepared for the worse. It will be dangerous because you need to talk bluntly about the issue of pornography, which means you will have to understand the issues and you are likely to get tempted by it yourself. "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1-2).

First, I want you to read the article "A Look at Pornography" to learn what is wrong from a scriptural viewpoint and how to present the case that porn is harmful to the soul. I'm sure I haven't addressed every argument that could be given, but it should give you a start and we can address counter arguments later.

Second, you need to examine your own life and make sure that this is an issue that you have a handle on. If you are struggling with pornography, you won't be able to help. In fact, you are more likely to get pulled in. "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:2-5).

Third, you need to decide if this is a group issue or if it is isolated to this one boy. In other words has he roped others into joining his sin? If you think there are multiple boys involved, make this a group study even if it includes those who are not yet involved in it. By doing so, you will put up barriers from it spreading further. Along with this, turn the girls over to the female mentor. They should not be a part of this discussion. Girls do have problems with pornography, but the form and motivations are different. This is not the time to be dealing with guy versus gal issues.

Either individually or as a group, hold this as a Bible study. It is not about what one person feels is good or bad. It is about what God said is right or wrong. You will need to get into specifics about why it is wrong and what it does to damage a soul.

If this discussion is rejected or ignored, if you don't see a change in the boy, then you need to immediately take the issue to whoever is in charge and remove the boy from the group. He definitely should not be leading while accepting of sin; otherwise, he will be leading many to sin (I Corinthians 5). You also need to sit down with the boy's parents and explain what you know is happening. Tell them of your concern for the boy's soul. But also tell them of your need to isolate the group from the sin. Hopefully the parents can step in and turn him around. I hope as well that the leaders in your congregation take the sin seriously and intervene on his behalf too.

If it doesn't work, know that you have done your duty, but each person must make his own choice.

The second issue is that you have a boy undermining your efforts by trying to make you look bad to the rest. This is nothing different from how the Pharisees and Scribes attempted to undermine Jesus. It comes with the territory of teaching the truth. If the attacks are personal, ignore them. You life -- your actions will speak far more loudly than their words. "For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 6:43-45). It doesn't make the cuts any softer, but it will win out in the long run.

You pointed to the source: it is the boy's parents. You did something to gain a poor reputation in the past. Such things happen. You've changed but a reputation takes a lot longer to repair.

If the backstabbing continues, take the boy aside and gently say, "It seems to me you aren't happy in this group. I'm not holding you against your will. If you don't like what you are learning from me, let me see if I can find another group for you to join." If he wants to leave, then you've done right by him. If he doesn't, then have a small talk about politeness in regards to other people and their feelings.

For yourself, as I mentioned earlier, you are taking this too personally. You are seeing offenses as attacks against you and it is getting your hackles up. It is not about you -- never has been. Teaching others is about them. Some don't want to learn and they'll attack back. "A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, nor will he go to the wise" (Proverbs 15:12). It doesn't make you look bad. They are displaying their own hearts to the world. They don't realize how foolish and childish it makes them look to other people. So get your ego out of it. If they aren't interested, there are lots of other things you can and need to do. Life is too short wasting effort on teaching someone who doesn't want to learn.