Trust is a 2-Way Street
What do teenagers want? It’s a question many of us have asked ourselves over the years. Based upon how confused my parents were when their five children went through their teen years, I would guess that most parents have no idea what teens want. Many teachers don’t know either, which we see in their sometimes comical attempts to relate to students. I once witnessed a teacher try to rap to a bunch of suburban kids in an affluent area in New Jersey while he wore Birkenstocks, AE Jeans, and a Ralph Lauren polo. I’ve seen churches try to relate to students by holding teen nights that usually include loud music, junk food, a speaker hopped-up on caffeine and sugar, and a bonfire. But if you were to take a poll of the students in attendance and ask them if their needs were met, most of them would say no.
This is not true in all cases. Some parents, teachers, and churches do an absolutely wonderful job relating to their students. And for those of you who do, I commend you. You’re seeing, hearing, and meeting the call to reach our youth. But this post is about those who aren’t doing this well.
If there’s one thing you should know about students, it’s this: they don’t trust easily. Students in today’s society have learned to be guarded, reserved, closed-off, and withdrawn from anyone they see as an authority figure. They don’t trust people older than they are because that trust has been broken too many times to count and they don’t want to be hurt again.
Our students need for us as their leaders and mentors to be trustworthy. This is the first thing youth leaders must realize. Students see this so clearly in everything we do and say. If we say we’re going to do something, be somewhere, take them out, show up at their school, or anything else, we had better stick by it. Students today have been so lied to, strung along, hurt, and misdirected that they’re just waiting for us to break our promises.
Think about this for a moment: Were you ever lied to as a student? Did someone tell you they would be there for you and they weren’t? Did you ever feel as if someone let you down? The answer is yes. We’ve all had this experience. But the truth of the matter is that over time this reality has gotten worse. Students today have come to accept this as the norm. Our word no longer means anything. Telling someone you’re there for them has no meaning for them. Students no longer trust us. We need to earn their trust by showing them we’re invested in their lives, their futures, and in them personally and spiritually.
As believers, we’re told to stick by our word. Matthew 5:33-37 points this out very clearly for us. We’re told to let our answers be honest and true. We’re told that our relationship with Christ is based upon trust and faith. And if we can’t model this to our students, then why should they listen to what we have to say?
Trust will change our students’ lives. Could you imagine what would happen to just one student if someone kept their word to them 100% of the time? Can you see them beginning to trust that person? Can you see the relationship that could be built? In order for us to reach them with the gospel, we first need to establish that we can be trusted. If we’re not being truthful, then why should they trust what we have to say? There’s no reason for them to believe if they can’t trust those who are teaching them about belief.
As leaders, we have a high calling to lead younger generations toward the saving grace of Christ. This can only be accomplished by first building a framework founded upon trust in the power of the cross.
Nick Mance is a youth pastor in Iowa and is married to his wife Elise. Nick has served in a variety of ministry capacities for over ten years and is a writer, blogger, speaker, and communicator specializing in student and family ministry. You can find him on Twitter @nick_mance & his personal blog at http://nickmance.blogspot.com/.