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.