Thank you @Carson for some specific suggestions on a very broad question.
Structuring our lives to make church community happen, discipleship, vulnerability in conversations, engaging in fun activities or service projects together, taking some risks with our best judgement, are all great ideas that we can practically incorporate into our lives to build trust. More the time spent together doing stuff, we get to know each other and appreciate different facets of each unique person.
In thinking about solutions for greater trust, my angle of approach was more on our attitudes, beliefs, and communication styles to create safe spaces of trust. It’s usually easier to build trust with those whom we understand or are like. But our church communities are growing diverse in so many ways and it can be a challenge to figure out how to make everyone in the group feel accepted, which is crucial in establishing trust. I can certainly share some thoughts I have on this subject based on my experience and reading.
Christian psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud in his book, “Trust” identifies five essential elements to trust–
Understanding: Trust begins by listening and truly understanding other people such as their needs, feelings, and values. It’s not about convincing others to trust us but about them feeling that we genuinely understand them.
Motive: Real trust is built not only through understanding needs but also by ensuring that the other party’s motive is right and genuinely good for you. When motives align to benefit others, everyone profits.
Ability: Trust also hinges on ability or capacity. It’s not enough to understand and have the right motives; a person must be able to deliver what you trust them to do. Ability supports understanding and motive.
Character: A person’s character plays a significant role in trust. Honesty, integrity, and consistency contribute to trustworthiness. When someone consistently demonstrates good character, trust deepens.
Track Record: Finally, a track record matters. Past behavior and reliability influence trust. Consistent actions build a positive track record, reinforcing trust over time.
In my own experience, even with a willingness to understand, I have either misjudged or been misjudged, preventing trust from being formed. For the most part we Christians agree on keeping unity in Christ, but we don’t always know how to practically go about it.
For instance, when it comes to honoring cultural differences as Christians, we may be quite open to different cuisines, clothes, music, celebrations, of different cultures but we may not recognize the less obvious cultural differences to make space for those expressions. Until we take time to ask questions, educate ourselves and understand, we may not be able to appreciate the different cultures with their varied emphasis on values, perceptions on what constitutes strength/weakness, boundaries on sharing thoughts, emotions, opinions, time, views on parenting, marriage, gender roles, hospitality, societal obligations, etc. Christianity lived out may look different in different cultures. When cultures come together misunderstandings can make someone look immature, impolite or even unchristian. These misunderstandings if not properly dealt with, ultimately lead to conflicts or at the minimum cliques in the community.
Listening to individual stories may help us understand differences better. As we hear responses to our questions from those with different perspective, we have to resist the urge to judge or get defensive and be willing to compromise and adjust our attitudes and beliefs if we were misinformed. We have to be willing to not be offended easily and be willing to forgive. We have to be patient with one another, as change takes time and support. If we differ on biblical interpretations on something secondary, we dont need to major on the minors.
I think understanding the basis for differing views is the biggest challenge. Once we get past the first hurdle, with proper Christian biblical discipleship, we may find ourselves much in agreement with others on other elements of trust like the importance of having motives that focus on loving others, living with integrity, and growing in excellence or keeping a good track record.
In small groups, having rules for discussion spelled out in advance has been helpful in experiencing safety. I also think due to power imbalance created between a majority group and minority group due to numbers, the leadership or the majority group can adopt ways to increase partcipation of the minority group. As everyone partcipates, when gifts and good character are seen for what they are, I have seen trust grow. Another way I have seen trust grow is when we admit to our failures and make good on them.
I would love to hear other examples and lessons learned on building trust from others in this community.