This is part three of a series of posts on Church 2.0, based on this Web 2.0 Meme-map. Church 2.0 can be thought of as a missional ecclesiology for those influenced by the philosophies and developments of Web 2.0. In the series we’ve covered participation: user as contributor and radical decentralization so far. Today is radical trust.
People laughed when the creator of Wikipedia first announced his plan to create an online encyclopedia that everyone in the world could contribute to. They laughed at him because he had a radical trust in people to do the right thing (i.e. not "vandalize" the site). Certainly there are those who attempt to vandalize the site with nonsensical or inaccurate information, but those errors are usually corrected in a matter of minutes (if not seconds – I don’t know the exact stats) because there are so many honest people out there monitoring topics they are passionate about.
Squidoo functions under a similar ideal, where people share links and information about anything they know about. So if you researched ferrets before you bought one as a pet, you can post that info for everyone else to use: the books and websites that are helpful, pictures of your own ferrets, links to other ferret-owners, etc.
These Web 2.0 ideas are rooted in the radical trust of the user to put his or her knowledge or expertise in the service of educating and serving others. There is a radical trust and respect built into these ventures, where the user/contributor is not seen as a means to an end, or a mindless zombie just waiting to be manipulated into buying something. Instead there’s trust and respect, and people like being treated that way.
Too often in the church there has been an inherent distrust between leaders and congregants. Many times leaders don’t trust people to make good choices if their arms aren’t being twisted in some way. Whether it’s the direct control of the stern taskmaster or the indirect control of the manipulator, church leaders often feel they must "help" people make good choices. Why? Because there’s very little trust. Why? Because there’s very little respect. They’re "sheep" right? Dumb animals.
I think Church 2.0 is going to demand more genuine respect and radical trust from leaders. We’re going to have to trust our "users" to make good decisions and respect them as people made in the image of God, with creativity and good ideas brimming inside them. We’re going to have to build some "hackability" into the structures to make it easy for people to change things that should be changed. We’re going to have to dismantle our committees (or at least change them so they aren’t creativity-killers anymore), and give trust, respect and permission to people to engage in ministry and leadership according to their gifts.
Church 2.0 demands we don’t look with suspicion at people, but instead we trust them. Many of them are experts in areas we know nothing about. Let them lead in those areas, listen to them, respect them, give them permission to make adjustments and changes. We’ve already talked about the importance of team leadership in Church 2.0, and building a team requires trust, and an ability to like and participate in stuff even though you didn’t think of it or build it.
Firefox allows anyone to create extensions for the browser, adding functionality or just fun. This allows anyone with a good idea to "hack" Firefox and make it do something cool. For example, I have an extension running that puts a tiny weather bar along the bottom of the browser, including alerts for dangerous weather and forecast information. I also have one called "Adblock" that allows me to block ads on webpages (very cool!). The guys who built Firefox didn’t think up the ideas or build them, someone else did. But they built "hackability" into Firefox, making it easy for anyone with a good idea to implement it without too much bureaucracy involved.
In the same way, in Church 2.0, you’ll need to make it easy for normal people to "hack your system" in order to make improvements. Don’t make people jump through unnecessary hoops in order to implement a great new idea. Make it easy for people to try stuff out, trust that they have creative and innovative ideas you didn’t think of. Now, not every Firefox extension is useful, and some are quite buggy, but some of that messiness is the price you pay for hackability. I think it’s well worth the price. Start with radical trust, build in hackability, and watch creative ministry flourish.
Next in the Church 2.0 series: Rich User Experience