[Note: a version of this article first appeared on Searching for the Called.]
The most important ingredient in any process isn’t expertise or charismatic personalities or financial resources. It’s relationships. When the bonds are strong among the people involved, there can be productive disagreement, a full exploration of possibilities, deep investment in the work, and mutual support and accountability, all leading to forward progress.
The foundation of relationships is trust. Not simply predictability – I know your passions and hot buttons and how you’ll react to each being tapped – but shared vulnerability and risk-taking. Many congregational teams and committees start with some sense of predictability by virtue of the members attending church together for a long time. But most (if not all teams) will need to dig in before high-intensity work begins to develop the second-level trust that will allow for the most thorough and faithful process.
What does it look like to grow that deep trust? Here are eight Cs – from lowest to highest risk – to guide that essential work:
Clarity is getting straight within ourselves about our thoughts and commitments, then being honest with others about them.
Communication is putting our clarified knowledge and understanding out there, and in turn listening to others with open hearts and minds.
Curiosity is admitting we don’t have the whole picture and wondering about what we don’t know.
Compassion is showing care to and connecting at a heart level with others, believing the best about them as we do so.
Companionship is being present and authentic while still maintaining the boundaries that allow us to be clear and compassionate.
Consistency is showing up the same way every time and admitting when circumstances have thrown us off balance.
Conflict is being willing to disagree and to have our ideas improved upon.
Control release is relinquishing attachment to the outcome, trusting that the process will end up as it should so long as we bring our whole selves to it.
Jesus embodies each of these Cs in his ministry. He bookends his active period with a time of clarifying his identity and purpose in the desert and a prayer in the garden of “here’s what I want, but I’m here to finish the job.” His interactions with followers and adversaries alike are centered on getting his message out while asking about and listening to their hopes and fears. Time after time Jesus shows up for people, particularly the least of these, truly valuing them and radiating divine love for them. With those who want to hold on to what they know and have, he’s not afraid to offer a challenge. And in the end, he allows himself to be led to the cross so that he can expose all that is wrong with the hunger for power.
The eight Cs and the resulting trust can strengthen relationships not just within the team but between the team and congregation. The effects of deepened connections, in turn, extend beyond the process itself, cultivating beloved community with the Source of love at its center.