As I continue to work through Sherry Weddell’s great book, Forming Intentional Disciples, she presents a process that is clear to leading people to a personalized and communal faith in where the believer takes full ownership as a disciple.
I used to say that the one thing all ministry is founded on is relationships. This is still partially true, but Weddell delves in even deeper to the question of relationships. The key to any relationship is trust.
Do the people that walk through the doors of your church trust someone in your ministry? Do they trust enough to talk openly about their faith and relationship with God?
Weddell suggests this: “With most twenty-first century people (there are always exceptions), we can’t start with catechesis. They aren’t ready for it yet, and if they aren’t ready, it will just roll off like water off a duck’s back. In any case, catechesis is designed to foster the maturation of disciples, not the initial conversion of those who aren’t yet disciples” (pg. 125).
If I truly analyze how the church does faith formation, it runs counter to what Weddell says. We seem to always start with catechesis. Yet, most people that walk into our ministry are not at all ready for this.
Wow! Do you recognize what this is saying for your and my ministry?!?!
It’s saying that catechesis as a tool is important for maturing disciples, but it s not appropriate for people who are just beginning their journey of faith. These are the people that you and I minister to on a regular basis.
The first step is trust. The person that you minister to has to develop a certain level of trust with you and others in the ministry. Until they reach that point, they will not be open to any serious conversations of faith.
At this point, I could re-hash the importance of building solid relationships in the church. But I think you understand that already.
I’d like to suggest 3 ways that you and I can focus on building trust with those that enter into our ministry.
- Don’t pretend to be perfect. A trusting relationship starts with transparency. I am not a perfect disciple. I do not know everything about faith and church. As a ministry leader, it is easy to take on an aura of perfection and knowledge. Move away from that. Tell stories of your struggles of faith. If they see you being honest about your faith, they will begin to trust you.
- Don’t provide answers. Instead, ask questions. No one likes a know-it-all. I have been accused of this before. In this phase of their journey, the seeker is not looking for answers. They are looking for someone to listen. Ask questions that allow you to truly understand where they are coming from.
- Introduce them to others who are not perfect. There is power in a community of strugglers. There is power in a community of not perfect people. Connecting a seeker in your ministry to others is one of the most powerful ways to build a trusting community, if they all follow steps 1 and 2 above. This lets them know that it is not just you that is transparent and honest about your faith. It lets them know that there is an entire community that is struggling and seeking just like them.
Building trust takes time. If we build that trust, it naturally leads to the next phase of forming an intentional disciple. We’ll delve into that more next week.
Question: In what ways can you stop focusing on catechesis as a starting point for your ministry and start to develop trust?
Here is a summary of posts for the “Forming Intentional Disciples” series: