Guest post by Rob Tims
Is it just me, or is it painful getting to know other people at church?
Honestly, it could be my introversion. The whole “greet someone around you” in the worship service drives me crazy, much less trying to find a way to get comfortable and open up to someone in a small group or a Sunday school class. It’s just awkward, and it’s a whole lot easier to shoot the breeze and talk about the Red Sox or the Cowboys than it is my levels of stress and struggling prayer life.
Yeah … I don’t think it’s just me.
This is a real problem. We can’t love one another the way Jesus modeled for us and commanded us by pretending our lives are OK on Sundays and that other day we intentionally hang out with Christians.
So to that end, here are three tips for building trust in your Bible study group.
First, speak the truth in love. You’d think it goes without saying that an environment of trust requires that truth be told, but it doesn’t. Far too often we conclude that the best way to build trust is to be socially appropriate, which often comes at the exclusion of the truth, or at the very least, some version of the truth. This may keep everyone comfortable in the moment, but it won’t build trust for the long term. People trust truthful things. If the gospel is true (and it is), then when we have to mirror this when we speak to each other about it and things surrounding it. And we have to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:30). What we say has to be said with the right motives and the right manner: lovingly. It’s not loving to dismiss important questions raised in the group (avoiding the truth), nor is it loving to address important questions with dismissive, prideful, or arrogant tone. No, we must speak the truth, and do so in love.
Second, give the grace. Building trust the right way takes a lot of time, a lot of attention, and all along the way, you and others will make mistakes. Steps forward will be taken, and steps backward will soon follow. Ironically, one of the best ways to insure that people grow in their trust levels within a discipleship group is to be gracious when they don’t. Forgiveness doesn’t lead to indifference, but inspires for growth. So when those steps backward occur, give the grace.
Lastly, model the way. What I mean is that you can’t expect the development of trust to be somebody else’s job. So what if you’re not the group leader? You can help usher in genuine trust by modeling for others in the group. I recognize the risks involved in this. But hear this: there is no way to build trust without taking personal risk. Yes, there can be too much vulnerability, but know this: 99% of the time, everyone knows how far is too far, so that worry is hardly necessary. You can help set the proper tone by speaking the truth in love and giving grace to others as they try to follow your lead.
When it comes down to it, we are best able to build trust with others to the degree that we trust God. As we daily grow in our vulnerability before God—astounded at His holiness and appalled at the depth of our sin—we trust God all the more because we come to grow in our understanding of just how amazing His love for us is through what He did in His Son Jesus. Trust of others is driven by our growth in this. So, if we’re having trouble trusting others, maybe the best way to start growing in that department is to examine just how much we may or may not be growing in our awareness of God’s holiness and the depth of our sin.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the answer to growing in our trust with others is by contemplating the gospel.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.