In a world increasingly rife with “fake news,” scandals, and misappropriations, the commodity of trust becomes increasingly valuable – especially for a church. Trust is a belief that someone or an organization is honest, sound, and doesn’t present harm. It invokes feelings of security and confidence based on past performance and dependability. Would the people attending your church use those adjectives to describe how it manages its resources?
A recent Independent Sector Trust Report shows that non-profits rank second only to small businesses when it comes to receiving high trust. Thankfully, the results show non-profits rank ahead of government, big business, and the news media. And while non-profits are still generally regarded as trustworthy, that number is in decline. For many churches, attendance and giving have not returned to pre-pandemic numbers, making it more critical than ever to gain and keep the trust of their congregation and community.
Factors Eroding Trust
The Independent Sector Trust Report provides excellent insight into various factors that deteriorate trust in non-profits. As churches move forward, here are three factors that may be impacting trust at your church.
- Inconsistent attendance impacts more than attendance charts and the church’s ability to disciple and reach people; it’s affecting trust in the church. According to the Trust Report, the more frequently people attend a church service, the more likely they are to trust the church.
- The political polarization we’ve all experienced throughout America in recent years also impacts church trust. The survey shows an 11-point swing between Republicans and Democrats when trusting places of worship. Republicans tend to trust churches more than Democrats. The survey reveals that Democrats see churches misusing their tax-exempt status to push right-wing political agendas. Interestingly, Republicans tend to view civil rights non-profits with skepticism by an even wider margin than Democrats.
- Personal finances contribute to the lack of trust in non-profits, including churches. The report shows a 22-point variance among Americans who consider their financial situation excellent or good compared to those with a poor or fair economic outlook. Inflation is a major contributor to this divide as it continues to bite into the financial health of the middle class and those with lower income.
Ways to Build Trust
Warren Buffett once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” That means building trust requires ongoing, intentional acts that demonstrate repeated behaviors of consistency in what matters most. While it is impossible to create an exhaustive list of ways to develop and maintain trust within the church, here are a few ideas to get your church moving in the right direction.
- The church’s mission, vision, and values must be more than a well-written phrase to plaster on the website. The mission is why the church exists, the vision is a future state of what it looks like to accomplish the mission, and the values drive the decisions. Does the church’s actions match its purpose?
- In every situation, especially ones related to finances, demonstrate dependability. For example, churches raising money to purchase or upgrade a facility via a capital campaign must build a track record of success by performing the upgrade or purchase as promised.
- When it comes to finances, churches must openly communicate. The easiest way to accomplish this is through sharing the church budget. Of course, there is a right way to share with appropriate detail, but the church body must know how its financial investment impacts what God is doing in and through the church.
The factors eroding trust in churches are not going away; youth sporting events are increasingly on Sunday mornings, making consistent attendance more difficult for young families. Politics continues to creep into the church, dividing believers and preventing those looking for God to enter. And financial concerns continue to impact how people view their future – with or without God.
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus told his disciples that they are the light of the world. He went on to say, in verse 16, “Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” That sounds a lot like building trust.short url: