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A culture of trust within the youth group

A culture of trust within the youth group
A culture of trust within the youth group | ©: SerrNovik - Fotolia

"Trust is the beginning of everything" - this is a well-known advertising slogan of a German bank. And even though we are dealing with the ill-famed advertising language, this statement holds a lot of truths. Without trust, we could not form relationships, educate children or do any work properly. Just by trusting all parties can a human being grow into the greater whole.

This is also true for youth groups, both within the group itself (i.e. among young people) and among youth workers or employees. A culture of trust must be created between individuals so that everyone feels comfortable in his role and to ensure optimal development.

What does a culture of trust mean?

Under a culture of trust, we understand a climate of trust. Whether in a company, at school or in the youth group. If this culture of trust exists and is practiced correspondingly everyone knows that he can trust not just the other members of a group but also teachers, guardians or supervisors. Such a culture of trust is the goal. It can be created with appropriate measures.

Often we speak of a "sworn in team" then we talk about people who mutually trust each other and whose relationship is marked by this trust and openness. Unfortunately, this is not the way it goes always. On the contrary: In many schools, businesses and youth groups distrust, selfishness and recrimination dominate their way of life - precisely the opposite of what a culture of trust means.

Why is it so hard to find and to have trust in each other?

Many people behave in a way as if they could not influence the degree of confidence in any social structure. This trust is highly sought-after, even demanded, however, only by the other person. This means not enough people put sufficient trust into others while at the same demanding that trust from them. A model, which is simply not workable.

The difficulty of building trust has much to do with the loss of control. People who trust in others, let go a part of control they have on their lives. For those, who have already bad past experiences with this giving up of control, will find it even harder to rebuild trust in the future.

In such cases, confidence is largely replaced by mistrust. Therefore, distrust is triggered by bad experiences in conjunction with the conforming anxieties.

How can a culture of trust be developed in a youth group?

First of all, the following applies: Every human being has a so-called basic trust without that he would not be able to survive. For example, we trust that not every person we encounter in our everyday life is evil. Unfortunately, in our current society this basic trust is waning, due partly to economic- and world events, as well as negative personal experiences und disappointments with people in our proximity.

However, this basic trust is not enough to create a culture of trust within a group or institution. To achieve this, three fundamental things must be established:

  1. A sufficient number of employees must voluntarily make an “advanced payment” in trust to improve the culture of trust. This advancement may consist, for example, of renouncing part of their advantages and courageously dealing with unpleasant topics. Power games and the pursuit of "self-interests" are counterproductive.

  2. The group must be convinced to continue maintaining the chosen course even if setbacks and disappointments occur. This means that the leader must take their job very seriously and even continue when other people do not immediately take this change on board. This means "clarity", "determination", "unambiguity" without faltering whenever a problem arises.

  3. Finally, a way must be found to deal with those people who permanently refuse, to contribute to the culture of trust. This may turn out to be a real balancing act. On the one hand, there should be a corresponding pressure exerted on these people to still bring about change in their behaviour, while you need to avoid creating a chasm between the so-called “good people” and the “troublemakers” at the same time. This would have an adverse impact on the entire group climate and therefore also on the culture of trust.

    If these conditions are met and the structure of the culture of trust is continuously encouraged, the desired success will be achieved over time.

Overview: Trust- and distrust factors

Confidence within a group encouraged through:

  1. Selflessness

  2. Openness

  3. Courage to change

  4. Communication

  5. Positive experience

Suspicion within a group is fostered by:

  1. Excessive self-interest

  2. Laying blame

  3. Dishonesty

  4. Lack of communication

  5. Anxiety

  6. Power games

Implementation in youth work

A culture of trust within the youth
A culture of trust within the youth

A youth group consist of members of the group and their leaders. In this situation, the creation of a culture of trust is twofold: on one hand it is between the members of the group and, on the other hand, it is between the members and their leaders. As we just mentioned above, there are several culture trust killers as well as those factors encouraging trust.

Building trust takes a long time; destroying it can be as fast as a blink of the eye. Almost everyone will be able to recall examples of his own life. It’s often those critical situations; just when you really needed relying on someone, he lets you down. Such negative experiences and disappointments stick. They make you more cautious the next time; make it harder to open up, to trust once again.

Trust games, cooperation games, those without winners and losers or experiential learning, and multi-day activities are essential program points to create a culture of trust within the group and its leadership respectively. It is needless to say that the group leaders or management have to be familiar with the positive and negative factors of establishing a culture of trust.

The personality of the group leader plays a decisive role in this context. The more honest, the more open, the more decisively and fair in conflicts, the more reputation and trust, is built. And not to forget, the way the youth worker criticizes or talks about other people (group members and other leaders) takes an important role.


Building trust is one of the most difficult issues when co-existing. Negative experiences, fears and mistrust often prevent to trust others. But if you do not start with yourself, then it becomes even more difficult. Why building a culture of trust or even keeping one alive is so hard is often difficult to explain. It indeed requires a little bit of psychological background knowledge.

However, any youth group, club and even workplaces will, without a culture of trust disintegrate, eventually. However, if you take your group members seriously, treat them fairly and openly, address them without fear and are not afraid of dealing with conflict, do not talk negatively about other people (or behind their backs), trust will build over time.

My tip: Talk about all the trust killers but also about those factors that encourage trust. Talk about the reasons and previous experience and why it is often so hard to trust each other.

[ © | 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work ] - 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work
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