"Kids should trust your word so they learn to trust God's Word." -Larry Hutton
How important is it to be a person of your word? Before answering that, let me ask this; do we want students to know that God is faithful, full of truth and will never leave us? Yes. Yes. Yes.
Psalm 18:2, "The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer; my God, my keen and firm Strength in Whom I will trust and take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my High Tower."
One job assignment for children's ministry (or parents) is to represent God to children. That's a big assignment! One way to represent God is to be people of our word. Psalm 15:4 says to swear to your own hurt and do not change. In a nutshell; do not lie. Keep your word. Keep your promises.
When someone in authority does not keep their word on one matter, it makes it hard to trust their word on other matters. Warren Buffett is known to say, "Trust is like the air we breathe, when it's present nobody notices. When it's absent, everyone notices." Trust is important in a company, in a home, in the Kingdom of God, in a classroom. When there is no trust, people notice.
So how do we build trust in a classroom?
Explain your intent. Instead of just telling your students "yes" or "no," explain why you are saying yes or no. "No, we don't shake our booty during praise and worship BECAUSE that is not a reverent action before God." True story of my last teaching experience! Explaining your intent will help your kids feel a part of a bigger mission. "We reach out and welcome new students BECAUSE we want to show the love of God to others and we want to treat others the way we would want to be treated."
Be consistent. What are your classroom rules? Do you enforce them? We have a 3 strike and you're out policy in our classroom. Usually 1 strike is all it takes to steer a child's behavior in a better direction, but consistency is key. No matter who the child is, who their parents are or what the child has or hasn't done in the past, if a rule is broken a strike is given. I recently had a student bring a paper up to me and say, "The other teacher told me that if I bring this back I get a prize." I'm on a rotation in this particular classroom so I was not aware she would be bringing back homework. This was an opportunity to show trust to this girl. I replied that if the other teacher said that then yes, she indeed could choose a prize.
Extend trust. The primary job of a leader is to inspire trust. Model trustworthiness to your class. Beyond that, a leader should extend trust. Start to show your class that you trust them. We have boys that play basketball before class. One way I can extend trust is to tell them that I trust them to put the balls away at 10:05 and come to class without me coming to get them. See how it goes. Instead of focusing on the small percentage that may abuse this trust, believe the best. I bet more often than not this will motivate children to prove they are worthy of being trusted!