My first of many writings on small group life, growth, and spirituality must foundationally be about trust. I hear so often people reflecting on the challenges that come from people committing or not committing, sharing or not sharing, being open or closed, honest and vulnerable or distant and removed. Foundationally, it comes down to trust… and those of us who are seeking to lead or connect people into community absolutely must pay attention to what I’ll call “The Trust Factor.”
Trusting is one of the most difficult things for many, many people to do. It seems, too often, that those of us who trust readily simply assume that everyone else is going to, or “should,” trust as much as we do. Not likely! Every movement towards “the other” in relationship involves trust. At a very basic level, eye contact even involves trust. At the most significant level, giving of ourselves sacrificially to share our souls and serve involves trust… and of course is the final act of replacing our need to trust in humans with a trust of the Divine. Everything in the middle, from talking to physical contact, to speaking up in a group, to sharing our stories (good and even painful), to showing emotion, to committing time and resources, to being present and available… all of these involve trust on many different levels.
We, as leaders, must pay attention to, affirm, and celebrate all positive movements in the Trust Factor. It’s pretty easy to figure out where someone is with how much trust they will give. The natural movement of conversation is entirely based on it. Eye contact, small talk, greeting (hug or handshake?), life stuff, struggles, commitment for further conversation, etc. We test the waters of trust without even knowing it. The extent that we become aware of where someone is, determines how able we are to meet them where they are and invite them into deeper levels.
Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate all displays of trust. Remember that most people DO NOT trust readily. Even a hug versus a handshake is an enormous step for some people. Even a two-armed hug versus a one-armed hug is something to rejoice over. Let us, as leaders and inviters into community, begin to pay attention to the Trust Factor. Only then, will we be able to invite and welcome others into spaces where the Trust Factor may build in strength. More on that to come…