Written by Aaron Helman

What happens when a student is grounded from youth group?


Maybe you’ve gotten that late afternoon text message before, just a few hours before your midweek program is ready to get started:

Can’t come to youth group the next two weeks.

Got in trouble at school and now I’m grounded.

On the surface, this just seems wrong. It seems like bad parenting. Your kid makes bad choices and the punishment is to keep them away from the positive Biblical teachings of church?

After all, it’s our job to help students make better choices and lead better lives. How can keeping students away from an environment like that possible help the situation?

And if I’m honest, the first time I got that message I was a numbers-centric youth minister with a small youth group and a spontaneously grounded kid might torpedo my attendance by as much as 15% for the next two weeks. Then I became a parent and after that I became a parent to a teenager, and I started to understand things a little differently.

Today I’ve got a more nuanced view on those grounded students than I did ten years ago.

Why would you ground your kid from church?

Unfortunately, it’s not usually that simple. I remember being a teenager.

My social life was my entire life and my entire social circle was my youth group.

We met three times a week, and although I loved Jesus, my primary motivation for going was simply to be with my friends.

When you’re grounded, that extra time with friends is usually the first thing to go, and for a parent it’s an impossible situation – you can’t effectively ground your kid and still let them hang out with their friends 2-3 times a week, even if it’s at church.

It’s a hollow and ineffective punishment if it doesn’t sting.

Beyond that, there’s the truth that parents often don’t understand or experience the true value of your youth ministry.

Our emails and flyers and websites extol how fun the Nerf Wars are going to be, but don’t emphasize the spiritual meat.

You already know that teenagers aren’t the best at having meaningful conversations with their parents about “what we talked about at youth tonight.”

Add that up, and a parent’s view of your ministry might be that it’s a lot of fun with a lot of friends. Stated that way, it’s exactly the kind of thing you’d want to ground your teenager from.

Before getting too negative about parents, really consider their point of view.

Have they been shown the spiritual and moral value of your program?

Are the co-conspirators also a part of the youth group?

If mom sends him to youth group, does he then hang out more with the people he got in trouble with?

Is it possible that this is a one-week thing because the student needs to spend tonight working on an extra-credit assignment to make up for an abysmal grade?

Once you’ve taken a few minutes to be empathetic to the plight of a parent, it’s time to start thinking about the student.

Even if you ultimately disagree with the parent, the truth is, it’s their kid and you don’t control how they parent.

What you can do is control how you minister to the student anyway.

A student isn’t beyond your ministerial arm just because they’re not at youth group, and the truth is that a student who’s in some trouble provides a ripe opportunity for you to invest in their lives.

Send over an SMS-ready devotional.

It’s not difficult.

Figure out the Scripture part of what they’ll be missing at youth group, and send a simple text that says:


We’re in Matthew chapter 8 tonight.

Since you’ve got extra time now, read over that a few times tonight and text me back to let me know what stands out to you.

Later on, ask how you can pray for them.

Never speak poorly about a parent.

Even if every part of you is inconsolably convinced that this is bad parenting, never let a whiff of that get to the student.

There is nothing good that can come from that, so don’t do it.

Instead, offer to help a tired parent out.

You think kids take it hard when they get grounded?

Their parents might be taking it even harder.

Send a message to mom or dad and let them know that you’re available.

You’d be shocked how many parents will take you up on it.

Word of advice here, if you meet with a student who’s gotten into trouble, you’ll want to be pretty businesslike.

Meeting them for donuts or disc golf probably feels like a reward, and that’s kind of the wrong incentive.

But meeting just to talk, pray, and counsel.

That’s cool, and it’s an opportunity you will not want to miss.

How do you respond when a student is grounded from youth group?

Leave a comment below.


Like this blog post? Then you’ll also like this…

What to do When Students In Your Youth Ministry are Dating, then Break Up

Aaron-Helman-150Aaron Helman is on a mission to end youth worker burnout by providing the training and resources that you haven’t been taught… until now. Smarter Youth Ministry exists to help you learn how to manage their time and resources better so that you can do more ministry with less frustration. All of that having been said, you most likely know him as the creator of “Lamentation or Taylor Swift Lyric.”


9 Replies to “What to do When a Student is Grounded from Youth Group”

  1. Brian Swanson
    • January 12, 2016

    FINE, Aaron. I am going to start to change my attitude when this happens BUT ONLY because this was a well-written post. Great job! Sarcasm aside, you have great points. I’m guilty of being baffled at parents grounding their kids from student ministry stuff. Thank you!

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • January 13, 2016

      Ha…Brian…good stuff 🙂

  2. allen frans
    • January 12, 2016

    i struggle with the idea of punishing by keeping them from youth group. grounding them from youth group activities like six flags trips, movie nights and the like i fully support. we only get students maybe 40 wednesdays a year if they are good regular attenders. i value those moments to pour into kids. my course of action is to always be building relationships with parents so when troubel comes, it wont be the first time i have talked with them about their kid. second, when i do talk with them, i look for a win-win. my usual choice is to ask the parent to come with and sit with their kid on wednesday night. that way, the parent gets to see first hand the depth of our student ministry and hopefully i gain trust and more credibility with the parent. i have actually been able to recruit new volunteers through this. and most of the time, the parent chooses to stay in the back and observe, which the student knows is happening and everyone leaves happy. just my $0.02

  3. Lisa Hradil
    • January 12, 2016

    I came into my job as youth director after my last child had exited the teen years, so I am behind the parents all the way! Having teenagers is tough and I have sympathy for the parents. I try to get the kids to see things from their parents point of view. They will listen to us and accept it better coming from their respected leader! I also tell them that they and their parents will one day be best friends. Of course they all say, “No way!” And it is fun to point this out 5-10 years down the road when they are posting on FB how great mom or dad is! Lol

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • January 13, 2016

      So true Lisa…when students get a little older they see things from a different perspective 🙂

  4. Dale Kurty
    • January 12, 2016

    Some great thoughts here! We recently had one of our girls get “grounded” from Youth Group for a month. At first, I had the same “number-centric” feelings that this post talks about. However, I was able to adjust my thinking and ended up writing the teen a letter saying that we respect her parents decision and support them for making it, and also that we were looking forward to and couldn’t wait for her to come back to Youth Group! The only thing I would have done differently was to let the parents know those same things and reach out to them a little better. Thanks for this post!

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • January 13, 2016

      Good work Dale, thanks for sharing!

  5. Tommy Burkhardt
    • March 9, 2016

    I’m a little late to the game here, and hopefully, you can drop some insight. I have a student who is currently grounded from youth group however, he can still play his Xbox One and do other activities. The grandmother has come to me because she cares about what choices to make on his end and normally I try to side with the parent without trying to tell them how to be a parent because I think we all know how well that can go over. So to sum this all up. If I set up a time to meet with the father what could I possibly say that won’t be offensive, and how can I maintain the demeanour that youth group is more important than Xbox.

    Reply 1 Response
    1. Nick Diliberto
      • March 15, 2016

      Good question, I think it comes down to building a relationship with your approach to the situation. Don’t go in there with gloves on ready for a fight. Let him know your on his side, but talk to him about why you feel youth group is important at the same time. Hope that helps!


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