Post by: Garrison Polsgrove
Youth Discipleship Pastor at Shepherd Church

Have you ever read the comments people write about news articles or book reviews? It amazes me the nasty and disrespectful things people are bold enough to post. It is as if the commenters do not realize they are making remarks about a real person. Would they say those things if they were looking the author in the face? I doubt it.

The boldness internet commentators express in writing hateful and racy comments is gained through the feeling of invisibility. They may think to themselves, “It is not like the author is going to show up at my home and question me about this.” However, what if it was impossible for internet commenters to post anonymously? What if the second a person commented on an article or video they were forced to stand before the author and say those exact comments while looking him or her in the eye? I bet you would see a lot less negative commentary due to instilling a sense of personal accountability.

The same is true for students in D-Groups. Some students make disrespectful comments while siting in a circle of students because they feel invisible. They feel they can hide behind the voices of others and get away with saying something racy for the sake of gaining a laugh. However, it is up to the leader to make students accountable for their comments by stopping group and pulling the student aside and looking him or her in the eyes.

Discipleship group leaders…I am talking YOU! You must take away the feeling of invisibility a student feels while in the group and hold him or her accountable for offending or disrespecting another student. Do not think: “Well, I will just let that comment pass.” Or, “I do not want to hold up the group by pulling that student aside.” NO! You must hold that student accountable. By getting him or her one on one and repeating the comment back to the student. Looking them in the eyes reminds them that words are powerful and they are not invisible within the group. Disrespect breeds disrespect. So, do not allow students to disrespect each other because if you do…they will eventually start to disrespect you.

Follow the steps below when a student disrespects you or another student:

  • Look the student in the eye while in group and say something like: “(Name of student) I will not tolerate comments like that in the group. Would you please apologize to (student’s name) and tell me you will not say things like that again.
  • If another comment is made. Ask the student to walk out into the hallway with you. While looking him or her in the eye say something like, “You just said (repeat the comment), how do you think that made (say a student’s name) feel?” Then say something like, “If you are going to remain in this group I will not allow you to disrespect and offend me or any other student by making comments like that. Can you commit to not making disrespectful comments like that ever again?” (Then…rejoin group).
  • If another comment is made. Tell the student to leave the group immediately and sit in the lobby until groups are dismissed. Call the parents that night and explain what happened and repeat to them the word for word comments made by their child.