Jonathan's Answers to Tough Questions
I have a problem that I just don't know what to do about.. I have a teen in my Youth group who's nearly 16, she's bright, outgoing, and athletic. The only problem is that she can't seem to stay away from home for longer than one night. She gives in to homesickness, and won't even attempt to enjoy herself. Needless to say, this puts a damper on her participation in our group activities!
Her parents are as frustrated as I am, and will not pick her up early from these events that she so desperately wants to attend (until she gets there), but the sneaky little thing always manages to find her way home through an unsuspecting family member or church-goer.
She doesn't get away with this subterfuge when I am present, but I can't attend every function just to make sure this teen doesn't bolt! Any suggestions?
Try duct tape, an I.V., and a guard dog.
Actually, I'm glad to see your compassion for this situation, because many of us might not be as patient. This really isn't your problem, it's the parents' problem, but it's nice that you care about her enough to try to help her. You've got a great heart.
I'm no Dr. Phil, but I might want to see if this girl has some serious issues. If she does, then this is a whole different ball game and you'll need to take the advice of a professional. If she's NOT a couple fries short of a Happy Meal, and she's just a spoiled brat who's used to getting her way ... then that's a horse that can be broke. Unfortunately it's a problem that should be solved by her parents, not by you when you're on a trip, responsible for 30 to 100 other students.
IF you wanted to help her solve this thing, it would be as simple as taking a small group away for a weekend somewhere, just you, her and a few other girls. Talk with the parents and with her, and have everyone agree up front that she'll be staying the whole weekend. Make it a fun weekend full of distractions. If she freaks out- tough!
Doing this "experiment" with just a few others puts you in the driver’s seat and doesn't create a situation where you need to be distracted from the ministry God has called you to do on other trips.
If she succeeds on that trip, let her know that she's welcome to try another trip. Have an upfront agreement with her as to the consequences of her "bailing out." For example, the first peep she makes about going home, you have a bus ticket in her hand and send her home. That might sound harsh, but in all seriousness, what she is probably after is the attention that she gets through the entire process. ie: all the people gathering around her, "It's okay ... you're going to be okay." DON'T give her any of that. Just, "You can stay or I'm hitting speed dial on this cell phone to Greyhound. Your choice!"
If that sounds mean, it's not. You're doing her a favor.
I hope that helps.
The Source for Youth Ministry