I’m going to guess that most of the faithful readers of this blog would consider themselves as trustworthy individuals or at the very least, aspire to be trustworthy persons. It’s certainly a quality that I want to be known to possess. I want to live my life in such a way that people recognize me as honest, dependable and not corrupt. I think being trustworthy aligns well with what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
This week I came across some great research from the Springtide Research Institute (https://www.springtideresearch.org). I’d encourage you to check out their website and particularly their recent work on the State of Religion and Young People.
Look at some of their findings from their recent work with young people ages 13-25:
Organized Religion – that’s you and me. That’s the church. We’re right there in the meaty center when it comes to institutions, ahead of the media, congress and the president! While we might take some solace in being slightly more trustworthy than the media, congress and the president, such consolation misses the point. This research was done on 10-point scale with 1 representing No Trust at All and 10 representing Complete Trust. How do you feel about that 4.9 now? The church isn’t seen with much trust among young people.
I know this is hard for some of us to understand. The church was where we turned to in times of trouble. The church was the place we turned to when we needed help. But that’s less and less true in our world today, particularly among younger generations. They don’t see us as trustworthy, dependable, honest, or not corrupt.
So how do we overcome the challenge that our churches are not trusted? How do you reach people who are inclined to view you as untrustworthy? How do you reach people who don’t believe you have their best interests in mind?
I had the opportunity to sit with some college students who are helping lead the campus ministry efforts at the University of Findlay this past week. Both in those interactions and the research I stumbled across with Springtide the answer seems to be very clear: it’s all about relationship.
We live in a world were fewer and fewer people trust institutions, but most of us are hungry for genuine and authentic relationships. We want to be known and know others and ultimately, belong. We all want real relationships where someone else has our best interests in mind.
I’ve been in countless conversations with local congregational leaders over the years where questions like “how do we get more (fill in the blank – young people, families with children, etc.) to come to our church?” are asked. Today’s world demands a different question.
Tell me about the relationships you’re investing in? Are you trustworthy? Are you listening to them or just talking at them? Are you meeting them where they’re at or are you coming with a lot of judgement? Are you coming with their best interest in mind or do you have an agenda?
Bait and switch approaches aren’t trustworthy: “I’ll befriend you to get you to come to my church, program, etc.” How can you offer yourself to someone else in genuine relationship? Who is God placing in your path to be able to offer genuine, trustworthy relationship?
It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require effort. It’s not quick or easy, but it is possible.
CGGC eNews—Vol. 15, No. 12