As a student pastor, you see the teens you work with on their highest of highs and lowest of lows. Lately, I have noticed the low-point conversations centering on a particular issue: trust. Part of the definition of the word trust is reliance on and confidence in the truth, worth, and reliability of a person or thing. I have found myself sitting time after time in my office, living rooms and coffee shops with students discussing and array of issues stemming from broken trust. The issues that they express usually have something to do with people in their life becoming unreliable, causing them to loose confidence in friends and leaders in their lives. I’ve listened to teens recount what people in their lives have said to them… deeply wounding them and causing them to question their own worth. I hear teens and young adults question what and who are really “true.” They have experienced broken trust with parents, adults in their lives, friends, and dating relationships… and I am seeing a picture of a generation that is having a difficult time trusting… anyone.
A Culture of Revoked Trust
I am on Twitter. And as a student pastor, a large number of my students are on Twitter as well. It has been a great way for me to keep up with our students and what is going on in their lives, and it is quickly becoming a major vocal platform for a generation of teens and young adults. Twitter started as a 140 character “micro-blogging” avenue based on the question “what are you doing right now.” Teens, I have noticed, have taken it a step further – not just answering the question of what they are doing, but what they are thinking and feeling as well. Part of Twitter is the “hashtag.” The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet – it is a way Twitter users group and categorize messages. Recently I had noticed some of our teens using the hashtag #trustissues following some rather heavy tweets about family, relationships and life in general. I know it started in relation to a popular R&B song, but when you follow the #trustissues hashtag, you find and endless scroll of 140 character blurbs laden with the broken trust of a generation. Full of colorful language, you see the issues of a generation rising to the surface… and it is not pretty. Actually, it is heartbreaking. One tweet that I noticed summed it up for me as it said, “I have to consider everybody as being fake until proven real…”
This young generation is shaping culture… and it is a culture of revoked trust. What has lead to all of the trust issues that teens and young adults have today? Could it be the staggering divorce rate in the United States? Could it be the continual news of the short comings of coaches and teachers, politicians and pastors? Maybe it’s the barrage of entertainment and media, laced with the social issues of the day that are constantly in their face – or maybe it’s the new connectivity that social media has provided to a generation to air out their trust issues. Maybe it is all of the above and then some. Whatever the cause, we must seek to rebuild that trust.
A Culture of Renewed Trust
As ministers and community leaders, we must make a commitment to rebuild and re-instill trust in a generation of teens and young adults. The tough thing is that trust is something that is earned – not just freely granted or picked up in a teaching session. It is hard to gain and easily lost. Trust is something that a young generation will need to have re-instilled in them through experience. Teens and young adults will need to have trustworthy people in place in their lives – they will need to experience something different that will offset the trust issues they have been bombarded with, and in turn choose to walk in it, and begin to model it for others around them. We need to create a culture of renewed trust.
As we seek to take culture from revoked to renewed trust, here are a few points to consider:
1. Be a listening ear. The saying, “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” is true. You let a teen know that they matter when you are attentive and listening to their story. Build trust by hearing them out, understanding where they are coming from and what they are going through.
2. Be encouraging. Young people encounter a lot of discouraging things through out the day. As adults we may hear about some of their issues and consider them to be petty, but what we may see as “petty” is earth-shattering to them, and it is shaping who they are. Discouragement has a snowball effect – take the petty issues and roll them up with the deeper issues day after day and we have got problems. Build trust by being a fresh voice of encouragement in their lives. Position yourself in a place of direct contrast to the discouragement they may be experiencing in other areas of their lives. Become the most encouraging person they know. 3. Be transparent. Open up and speak to them out of your own life experience. Build trust by teaching them out of your own triumph and tragedy. When a generation considers “everyone is being fake until proven real” your transparency will help you earn credibility as you share the stories behind your scars.
4. Be present. One of the greatest things you can share with a teen is time spent with them. In an over-digitized world ruled by texts and Facebook, true face to face relationship has a huge impact. Build trust by capitalizing on the time you spend with them. Leverage the time you have as a student pastor or mentor to literally be there, interacting with them.
5. Be a person of Godly character and integrity. Teens can spot a fake a mile away. Build trust by being the real deal. Let them see you living out your faith, continually pursuing God, striving to be more like Jesus. Go beyond being just being good and strive to be Godly in front of a generation. Let them see and hear you pray. Let them see you live a lifestyle of worship. Let them hear you speak the Word of God. Let them see you trust in the Lord with all your heart, and not lean on your own understanding. Let them see you acknowledge Him in everything you do… and let it build an ultimate trust in a God that will lead them in an everlasting way.
Today’s teens and young adults live in a culture of revoked trust. Lets turn the tide and create a culture of renewed trust. Listen to them. Be open. Be there for them, encourage them and be someone truly living out your faith in front of them. One of the greatest things you can do is earn a spot on the radar screen in the life of a young person, becoming someone they can look to, talk to, share life with… and trust.