One underrated mistake churches make when they go about building community is going too far too fast. Everyone starts all relationships with a certain level of mistrust because you don’t yet know the other people.
We don’t know if people we don’t know very well are trustworthy or not. In fact, the more we journey through this life, the more this tends to be the case because of past experiences. The more we experience violations of trust in life, the more we tend to mistrust others when we are building a relationship.
This requirement of time to build trust is a good thing. It’s foolish to trust people who haven’t earned it yet.
Rushing into relationships can create a false sense of intimacy and closeness. People may feel like they know each other well, but in reality, they may not have had the time to truly get to know each other’s values, beliefs, and personalities. This will repeatedly result in trouble and heartache.
Trust doesn’t happen overnight
A sign of church health is that people are vulnerable and dependent on each other. But this doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen without a foundation of trusting relationships. The condition of any relationship (and a community of people) directly ebbs and flows with the amount of trust that exists between those people.
Because of that, mistrust is a relationship red flag to look out for.
If you’re building community in a church with others, it’s something that cannot be overlooked. When you see it, it should be dealt with before it grows large enough to damage relationships and the community as a whole. If it’s not dealt with, it can get to the point where one little action can blow certain relationships or the entire community up.
The process is important
Churches organize people into groups and then create intimate atmospheres filled with expectations to “get real” and “go deep” and “have community.” They think this is what “having church” is. What they will fail to consider is the process to getting to these experiences is as important as having the experiences themselves.
Manipulated vulnerability is never a good idea. People end up getting vulnerable with people they don’t really have a deep level of trust with. Then we wonder why there’s so much damage when it turns out those people weren’t trustworthy.
Build a foundation
One of the wiser pieces of advice I’ve heard is from a church planter with decades of experience helping new groups of people navigate the building of community. He said…
New groups should consider taking 6 months or so just eating together, having fun and getting to know each other. They should do this on a surface level before they ever plan environments and activities that facilitate vulnerability with each other.
Basically, a group of people needs time to build trust or the vulnerability isn’t healthy.
While this still won’t be long enough for everyone to build a deep level of trust with each other, it sets the foundation. You’ll at least have a baseline of knowing if people are committed, keep their word when they say they’re going to do something, and are generally trustworthy.
Because time is absolutely necessary, mistrust is really hard to resolve. Trust takes a long time to build and a moment to destroy. It’s better to approach relationships in an unhurried manner to guard your heart because when people mistrust each other, it creates a really unhealthy environment.
What won’t solve mistrust
In the book Rooting Out Relationship Killers, Stephen Matthew addresses 3 common “so-called remedies” that look like they solve mistrust problems when they really don’t. Here’s what he says…
- It is not a “promise” issue. The answer to mistrust is not found in promising, “I will never to do it again” or “You can trust me from now on.” The only answer is to BE trustworthy over a protracted period of time.
- It is not a “love” issue. It is no good saying, “If you really loved me you would trust me again.” We all love people we do not trust – like our children for example! We love them but don’t always trust their judgement, their replies to our questions or their ability to handle certain tasks. It is, in fact, foolish to trust a person who does not deserve to be trusted. You can still love your partner but not trust them in certain things. Only as they demonstrate trustworthiness over time will that be recovered.
- It is not a “forgiveness” issue. Forgiveness does not immediately take the relationship back to where it once was. A willingness to forgive is absolutely crucial to the health of any relationship, but just as you can love someone and still not completely trust them, so you can forgive a person and not trust them.
So when it comes to relationships, what you want to monitor is the level of trust or mistrust people earn. If people aren’t building trust, don’t invest in them. It’s a relationship red flag. Your investment will not provide a positive return.
Of course, you first and foremost want to make sure you’re a trustworthy person.
Where there’s mistrust, there won’t be people who are vulnerable and dependent on each other.