6 Ways to Lose the Trust of Your Students

Jen Willard
April 14th, 2020

Developing trust with your students can take time but once trust is broken it can take much longer to earn it back. Youth leaders have a limited number of years to communicate the Gospel to students with truth and love so it is extremely important to be aware of some pitfalls that may cause students to lose trust in youth leaders and the youth ministry.

Here are 6 ways to lose the trust of your students and what you can do about it! 


Students crave people who will look to them as people who are old enough handle the truth. Students are seeking out adults and peers who are willing to tell them truths about the world as they journey through self discovery. Building a foundation on dishonesty may cause your students to lose trust before you ever really earn it. This is the quickest and easiest way to lose the trust of your students. Always remember to be honest with your students as they will also be looking to you for Biblical knowledge. If they can’t trust you to show up to their soccer game when you promise, they may not be able to trust that you know the truth about Jesus either. 

Not Listening 

Talking more than you listen is not a way to build trust in any relationship and students want to know that you care about them. Taking time to listen to anything that your students want to talk about will help you to build a foundation of trust that lasts. One of the best ways to encourage listening in a youth group is through splitting students into small groups with their peers and a trusted adult. Choosing to avoid listening to your students, at any point in your ministry, may result in your students feeling disconnected from you and may leave them thinking that God doesn’t care and can’t relate to their deepest personal issues. 

Belittling Teen Issues 

Teens deal with real issues like loneliness, depression, pressure from parents, drug use, sexual expression, identity, and many more. Many of these issues are things that teens see or deal with on a daily basis with their friends or family. While it may be easy to tell the students in your ministry to ignore these issues or to focus on something different it would establish a shallow connection to only discuss Christian platitudes.

Students desire to build trust and develop a faith that matters to their daily lives. Listen to the teen issues and make sure to take them seriously in the teaching time with your youth group. Students desire to build trust with adults who are willing to talk through the issues that are current for them and how faith might influence their lives. Don’t fall into the trap of belittling the issues that are huge in the lives of your students. 

Demonizing Online Connection

This way to lose trust is similar to the one before it. Teens live in an online world that may be unfamiliar to many youth workers. As volunteers or leaders, we lived our lives as students in much different climates where our interactions happened at school, in our neighborhoods, or over our home’s landline. Students live in a world where their time spent in person is just as valuable to them as their time spent online.

Students try new things, develop identity, and create new relationships online. While we can teach teens best practices for staying safe online, choosing to demonize their connections online will be an easy way to lose trust quickly. Instead, teach students how to use their online influence for Christ and continue to uphold their values when interacting online. 

Betraying Confidence (Unless Needed)

There are times when you will have to betray the confidence of your students. Hopefully you have communicated to the students in your ministry the times that you may need to bring someone else in to help. A good rule of thumb is to get someone else involved every time a student may be harming themselves or others or even engaging in illegal activity.

There are times when confidence should be broken for the safety of your student, but you should also have a relationship with students that they can tell you things in confidence about their lives that shouldn’t be spread around. This may be a large weight to carry but when a student wants to share a large life event with you so that you can pray through it with them, there are times when it is important to leave the conversation between you and the student. 

Playing Favorites 

There will be students that you get along with better than others. However, you will alienate students or groups from trusting in you or your ministry if they feel like they don’t truly belong and they may lose trust in you or your ministry as a whole. Make sure to communicate often to your students that there are open lines of communication and that each of them know they have a valuable place in your youth group and to God. This level of communication and personal interaction will build trust between you and your students.

Relationships should be a central role in building community across generations in youth ministry. Refresh your basics with some Relational Basics from Doug Fields and pick up your copy of When Relationships Matter by the team at Orange Students (check out our review here).

Jen Willard

Jen Willard is currently the full time Youth Pastor at church near Little Rock, AR. She loves continually learning about ministry and is a graduate of Nazarene Theological Seminary’s MDiv program. Jen loves drinking coffee and traveling to new places with her husband Bryan. Follow her on Instagram at @duckjd.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.