Building Trust in Communication
I've noticed the need for trust building within the Christian community that exists in Baltimore (like anywhere else). People who have been on the ground are naturally suspicious of motives and whether or not you'll really be here in the long run. It's okay. It's natural and expected. The fun part is when a light bulb goes off and they relax. It's a natural and enjoyable process.
That led me to thinking about how foolish we can be when launching a new church in a community.
We come in and expect that the public will trust that we mean well when we start a 'new church'.
Some natural questions emerge:
1. What the heck is a new church?
The south is flooded with 'new churches' these days. Around here it's an oxymoronic statement. Churches are many things but 'new' is not one of them.
2. Are you a cult? Sad but true. The question isn't always phrased this way. It's really a question more like "What religion are you?" Even when you say Christian they may say "Yeah, but what religion." Well meaning people without much Christian background see denominations as varied religions. It's arrogant of us not to understand their concern and from where their question arises.
3. What good is a 'new church'? For some people this is a big hurdle. Since when have churches added anything to the fiber of a community? It's only with time and consistency that a community will see that you have a different perspective of what a church should be in a community.
4. Wait a minute. A new church? Where is the building being constructed? When we talk of starting a new church we have to keep in mind that people with little to no religious background will only think of 'church' in terms of a facility. This may be one of the biggest hurdles you'll have to climb for many people. In a secular society the church is anything but the people. Saying "a new church" is like saying "a new fire station". We don't say a fire station is the people but we are trying to get people to see that 'the church' is a collective of people.
All of this reminds me that if my Christian brothers and sisters need to take time getting to understand me, my community will need that same time. This will never come from demographic studies or purely event driven means. This is a conversation that must happen one person at a time as well as organizationally.
Right now I'm considering what our website looks like as we introduce ourselves to the community. Both form and function. We're having to keep in mind these and many other questions our community will have about us and do our best to answer them as our 'first step' toward becoming part of the fabric here.
Truthfully, the best inspiration will not be found in looking at other church sites. It'll come from allowing our site to reflect the in-person conversations we have in the community. This philosophy needs to be in all of our communication. We've got to be intentional in our presentation that it's not about 'telling' anyone anything... it's about conversing with them to build that trust.
If the Christian community needs some questions answered before they buy in... surely those outside of faith deserve our attention to building trust as well.
posted by Tally Wilgis @ Wednesday, February 25, 2009