I was having a conversation with two of my youth the other day. They were having some honest to goodness deep conversations about hurt/healing and repairing relationships within the youth group. Being the new guy I asked what some of the details were and who they were talking about. These two gave me some helpful details, but they did stop short of giving details of the real reasons for the hurt.
I had to leave it with a ‘that is cool’ and for some reason I left the conversation saying “You know you can trust me. I am here to be helpful in navigating these types of things.” They nodded in acknowledgement of what I said, but they were not convinced enough to tell me anything more. To be honest, I’m not sure I said that to gain more info at that moment or just to plant a seed for later. I have a history of being trusted and trustable by teenagers and young adults. However, these two do not know that, and they have little reason to.
They Don’t Trust Me and I have to be Okay With That
Trust comes with time. Trust comes with relationship… Or does it really? Is there a way to begin building trust in youth ministry with the teenagers in your charge? Is there a way to grow that trust level in a youth ministry that has lost trust over years of youth leaders that bolt after 6 months? Maybe it is an unfortunate incident within the ministry that has underlying mis-trust of every move you make?
A few years ago, Ernst Fehr, a behavioral scientist and professor of Microeconomics and Experimental Economics at the University of Zürich, undertook a very complicated, study of selflessness, selfishness and trust.
Bottom line: the professor and his colleague, Bettina Rockenbach, found that altruism — an unselfish regard for the welfare of others — is a powerful factor in economic transactions. Other studies have found compelling evidence that altruism is a genetic trait.
Theories that elevate the power of self-interest — the “greed is good” approach to doing business — often fail to take into consideration the fact that selfishness can almost completely destroy trust and cooperation. Trust, on the other hand, begets trust.
Stakeholders want to be leveled with. They really want to believe us … and they want us to trust them.
“If you trust people,” says Fehr, “you make them more trustworthy.”
Trust lies at the heart of who we are as human beings. As a species, we’re actually “hard-wired” to form social bonds. It’s partly a matter of neurobiology.
So in your youth ministry start cultivating a culture of Trust:
- Care for others. This is the phone calls, visits, even Facebook status commenting call all play a part in letting youth know that you can be trusted.
- Give opportunities where you trust first. This may start small & get bigger over time. Micromanaging and doing everything for the ministry yourself does little to build a culture of trust between youth, parents, leaders & you.
- Don’t be shy about this, it is in our genetic make up to want this.