Building On-the-Map Trust – Part 2

Part 2- CanoeBy Kim Shockley

Somewhere along my journey I read that we build trust by practicing integrity, competency and caring.  As Tod Bolsinger develops his thoughts in Canoeing the Mountains, he helps us to understand that on-the-map trust, which begins with competency, is essential to off-the-map leadership.  President Jefferson originally recruited Lewis to be the leader of the Corps of Discovery and on paper he had final authority.  Lewis recruited his one-time military leader, Clark, to come alongside.  “Military leadership, cartography, river navigation, scientific observation, frontier medicine, administration, organization, negotiation, strategy: together, Lewis and Clark offered to Jefferson and especially the men under their charge the competence and credibility required in leadership that would eventually go beyond their known world.” (Loc 716 of 4571) By the time the Corps reached the headwaters of the Missouri River they had built trust with these two men as leaders that made going off-the-map even possible.  Trust is essential to moving forward – and is worth the time it takes to build it.

Bolsinger suggests three ways that Christian leaders can build trust. First is a competent stewardship of Scriptures and tradition – primarily the Scripture and tradition that undergird the values of a particular congregation.  This competency leads us to being clear on what will NOT change.  Second, a competent stewardship of souls and communities.  Shepherds who care for their flock in meaningful ways build trust.  Third, a competent stewardship of teams and tasks, which provides adequate management of the ministry in our care.  Often it is this organizational piece that Christian leaders struggle to do well, but it is essential to going off-the-map!

Integrity is all about behavior.  Do our actions match our words?  Do we say one thing but mean another?  Do we promote gossip and rumors?  “There is not one documented example of Lewis and Clark breaking ranks with each other in a three-year expedition through the most dangerous and unknown territory every explored.  From the evidence we have, they had no disagreements in front of the men.  There was never a hint that Lewis, who clearly had the authority to do so, ever pulled rank on Clark.  By the time they came to the Lemhi Pass and readied themselves to go into unchartered territory, it was clear: The men now completely trusted their captains and each other.  This cadre of men had become a corps.” (Loc 1036 of 4571)

Peter Drucker says – “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (Https://, meaning employing new strategies to do anything but not addressing the culture of the organization most often means the failures of the strategies.  Our local churches have been doing this for years! Culture for the local church equals ‘the way we do things around here’.  Culture is a combination of what is most important – actual values – and the way we act (behave) together in each local church.  Culture is both positive and negative, and it is very hard to define. Culture can only be effectively changed, if needed, by addressing three elements: clarity, embodiment, and love.  (Chapter 6, Canoeing the Mountains)  As a CVS, I have called myself a minister of clarity by helping Christian leaders learn how God wants to use the congregation now.  When we have clarity around this purpose, then we have something that can be actively used to re-focus a congregation.  But only if there are leaders who are willing to embody the changed values and behaviors.  Embodiment of a new culture can only happen when we love what it is that God has called us to be and do.  So here we have a unique circle that can propel us into a future which relies more on God’s calling to mission and ministry than what we think we should be doing as a congregation.  It is a powerful thing!

Ultimately, we can only do this work of transforming a culture because we have built trust within the leadership corps of the local congregation.  Then, we can venture out to go off-the-map.

Bolsinger, Tod. Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2015.

Click to read Part 1