Trust: A building block of life and faith.

One of the key skills in life is learning to trust others, or more accurately, learning to trust the right people. For those of us who grew up in loving homes and safe communities, trust came pretty naturally even as we experienced some disappointments along the way. But many of our youth are not so fortunate. Instability in the home and community often increases the difficulty in enabling youth to take the risk to trust.

We all need face time to build trust. Nothing replaces face-to-face contact – not even Facebook. We use the FACE acronym to help our mentors build trust with their mentees. This is how it works:

Fun: For most of us, this is the easiest part (I’m assuming you’re not a bunch of curmudgeons). You can define this yourself, but it involves anything from Xbox to chess or basketball to shopping. There are three key aspects of having fun that can help build trust. First is to be willing to try something that a teenager can teach you. Second is to be willing to help a kid learn something you know. The third is to try new things together. Whether this is sports, music, food or whatever, there is an art to being both teachable and a teacher. Having fun often involves taking a risk. You can change their view of adults because most kids think that growing up means becoming boring.

Acceptance: This is where it gets harder. Acceptance does not mean condoning everything someone says or does. It means being willing to accept who they are so that they can have the freedom to explore all God wants them to be. You can change their view of adults because they assume that all adults, especially the churchy kind, are judgmental. Judging instantly kills trust.

Consistency: If you can only do one thing, just show up. That’s it. Many kids have become accustomed to adults not keeping promises. From parents to teachers, kids have a list of unreliable adults. And when you show up, be yourself. Act like an adult – just not a boring one. You can change their view of adults, because many kids expect adults to disappoint them.

Expectations: Expect teenagers to do great things. God has a plan for each life. Whether they become a banker, car mechanic, teacher or preacher, it is all great if it is in God’s plan. At the same time, expect a mutual friendship. Respect the youth and expect respect in return. You can change their view of adults, because many adults are condescending or dismissive of youth.

Investing face time with a youth can have results for generations to come. As we prove to be trustworthy adults, our youth can build their lives around trusting the right people. That is the foundation upon which work, friendship and marriage are built, not to mention, it is the basis of faith in our Savior.

Peter Vanacore began ministering to youth in 1978 through Youth for Christ on Long Island. In 1981 he joined the staff of Long Island Youth Mentoring and worked as an Area Director for mentoring ministry. He helped develop a mentoring ministry with incarcerated juveniles and later served as the Field Staff Supervisor. In 1996 Peter moved to Massachusetts to become the New England Director for Straight Ahead Ministries. In 2000 he became the National Field Director where he helped develop the School of Juvenile Justice Ministry. Peter returned to Long Island in 2003 to direct the Christian Mentoring Institute. Along with his duties at CMI, Peter is also a part-time faculty member of Gordon College where he teaches courses in counseling and at-risk youth. He has a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University.

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