Trust and Relationship

Some things that seemed rock solid before the global crisis are suddenly not so reliable anymore, a reality humorously captured in this three-minute video from Julie Nolke.  Think regular haircuts. In-person doctor visits.  Annual conferences. The right to accompany your loved ones into surgery.

Other things, however, seem truer now than ever.  Toward the top of that list, especially thinking of churches and church leadership, is the axiom that “trust is everything.” There are no short-cuts to building authentic trust and healthy relationships. And there is no substitute for them, especially in times of crisis.

In the heavily circulated article ”Leading Beyond the Blizzard,” Praxis leader Andy Crouch and colleagues make this point forcefully.  “Trust is the greatest resource in human society,” they write. “Without trust, we relate as competitors and in a mindset of scarcity. With trust, we discover creative pathways that unlock abundance we could never have found on our own.” In the current crisis, they conclude, “we will need to act at every moment in ways that build on, and build up, trust.”

So how does a church board “build on, and build up, trust,” especially when meeting together in person is likely not yet possible?

In seeking to build trust with one another, we might begin by remembering together that we are first called to trust God.  We might remember – and share – that after Easter, the gospels mostly tell stories about how Jesus comes and finds us.  In grief and in times of stress, we tend to double down on things we feel most comfortable doing.  The post-Easter disciples of Jesus return to fishing.  Or they simply get out of town and head to a nowhere place like Emmaus.  But Jesus shows up on the seashore and cooks the “back to fishing disciples” breakfast.  Jesus appears and walks alongside the two travelers to Emmaus.  Building trust requires our efforts, of course, but God is already doing the work of trust-building.  It’s not all on us!

Perhaps start  a board gathering by reading aloud, verse by verse, a passage like the opening of Psalm 71:


In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of refuge,
a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.


More trust can be built in a church board meeting if we begin with a deep appreciation of our ability to trust God in hardest times.

And more trust can be built in a church board meeting if we also make some intentional effort toward vulnerability with one another.  Into every meeting these days we are bringing grief, fear and anxiety.  We are thinking about family and friends who are separated from us.  We are intensely worried about those in our community who are ill, or desperate, or both.  We are anxious about the viability of our jobs and the sustainability of the institutions with which we are aligned, including our congregations.  And, week by week, we are being worn down by the unending adjustments we have to make in daily life, and by the unpredictability of the coming days and months.  Before a board talks about its March and April financial statements, we need to talk with one another about this.

Build trust in one another – share – tell the truth about feelings.

And, maybe at the end of the meeting, use this small piece of a Mary Oliver poem:


it is a serious thing 

just to be alive

on this fresh morning

in this broken world 


Each line invites attention.


it is a serious thing 

What is most serious in your life today?

What is most serious in your congregation today?


just to be alive

For what do you give thanks?

Where is God’s steadfast love clear in your life and the life of the world?


on this fresh morning

It’s important not just to rehearse all we know today of pain and stress and loss.

The word “fresh” can seem strange in our current context.

Nevertheless, what is “fresh” for you and your board and your congregation today?


in this broken world 

And yes, much is broken.

How do you lament all that is broken?

How do the images of “fresh” and “broken” work together in your life right now?

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