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Month: June 2018

Christian Leadership Matters; Building Leadership Trust (Part 1 of 2)

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Consulting, Professional Church Worker Experiences, Purpose, Team, and Values

Do your ministry leaders TRUST you? How do you know if they do (or don’t)?

My first ministry experience as an Assistant Pastor included exceedingly awkward Board meetings where the Senior Pastor did his level best to be invisible. Once the Board meeting officially started, these otherwise Godly, loving, and beautifully friendly members of the congregation became an unloving, judgemental and disgruntled horde of dysfunction. The change was so immediate and complete that at first I thought they were all kidding around. I quickly found out I was wrong; it was genuine and severe ministry dysfunction.

The problems discussed by each Board member were assumed to be “someone else’s” stubbornness or inadequacies. No one offered to help solve issues outside their own narrow responsibility. They were very serious about minor issues but completely ignored the most important responsibilities (and opportunities) offered the Church by the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  The only thing they all could agree on was that ultimately, it was the fault of the Senior Pastor. I felt sorry for him; he kept his head down throughout the meetings and seemed completely absorbed in whatever he was writing. (I always assumed it was his resignation! Amazingly, it never was and he endured these meetings for years.)

This unfortunate Senior Pastor was the victim of high-level distrust by almost everyone in leadership. A ministry team without trust is NOT a team, it’s a nightmare! I pray that no one reading this would ever endure such high-level dysfunction!

What is trust? What does it look like when an organization trusts its leader?

When I trust my surgeon, I allow her to use her scalpel to open me up. When I trust my accountant, I allow him to access to what I buy, spend, invest and waste. When I trust my spouse, I keep no secrets. Trust is the ability to rely on someone, to have confidence in their character, their strengths, abilities, and intentions. Trust requires vulnerability; allowing people to see the “real you.” Unless you create an atmosphere of trust as you lead your school, church or business, effective leadership is not possible.

Healthy leadership teams have common characteristics: a trustworthy leader, trust in one another, they look forward to working together, focus on important common goals (not politics). Healthy team members listen and encourage one another (not compete for dominance), individual members allow themselves to be vulnerable (they don’t blame others or circumstances). When a leadership team is healthy, when high-level trust is established, members are willing to risk, to try new things and be fully engaged in their ministry objectives. The freedom established in genuine trust creates the environment for effective God-pleasing ministry.

What are some steps toward building leadership trust? Here are three ideas [see part two of Building Leadership Trust for the remaining seven]:

  1.  Lead by example. A leader reaps what he sows. If you are seeking to build trust among those you lead, the leader must learn to model the behavior he/she is trying to cultivate. Trusting those you lead requires vulnerability. People will, ultimately, model what you do no matter what you might say. I don’t know if there’s science behind this thought or not, but it does seem to be true: a congregation, over time, takes on the personality of her Pastor. [I find that both humbling and frightening! — We better be sure our congregations know that Jesus is THE Pastor and then lead accordingly!]
  1.  Trust others. Learning to trust is difficult for many people. As leader, it’s your job to, well, lead. Jesus trusted His disciples and from that he got a Judas (the betrayer) and a John (who dearly loved Jesus) as well as a Peter (on who’s confession Jesus built His Church) and billions of people who have dedicated their lives to Him. Jesus invested Himself in His leadership team (and everyone else) and yes, He got burned (well, crucified), but He was also able to honestly say “It Is Finished!” (everything He came to do, He completed). Trusting others can be difficult, but that’s the nature of Christian Leadership.
  1.  Consistently Communicate. Consistent communication is built on knowing what you are trying to accomplish. “Tell me about your ministry.” Excellent leaders don’t “wing it” when answering that question. “Well, we’re like, a kinda church that, well, you know, loves God and we do great stuff in worship. . . .” Yuk! Not only must the leader know how to communicate well, the leader needs to communicate in such a way that EVERY man, woman, and child can (and will) share an intelligent answer to the question “Tell me about your ministry.” I know some don’t like the “slogan-sound-byte” approach, but the truth is this: people will more often support being made a “partner” rather than being part of an audience. Partners know the organization’s objectives and can share them with anyone they meet at a moment’s notice. Leaders lead in this area by communicating ministry objectives clearly and consistently.

The next issue will complete my top ten steps toward building leadership trust (I got too wordy to get all ten in one blog. . . sorry.) But the next seven will include: relationships outside the boardroom, leadership metrics, leadership consistency, coaching, and a couple of other important leadership principles.

Continue on to Part 2, Building Leadership Trust 

I would LOVE to hear from you! What leadership lessons have you learned? Share with me (and give me permission to share with others) your leadership successes, failures, joys and sorrows. . .

Until next time. . .


Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes a blog entitled Christian Leadership Matters each week. Through his blog and coaching practice, Dr. Pledger seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry they serve. The goal is to find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

Click to sign up for Christian Leadership Matters.  If you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question, email Dr. Phil at:

No Matter WHAT, Know your Why!

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Coaching, Professional Church Worker Experiences, Purpose, and Values Clarification

Have you ever asked WHY?

We spend a LOT of time asking What and Where and How. Those questions deal with workload, deadlines, specific answers to functional tasks. Yes, they must be asked and answered or little would get done, but there’s an important question we often forget, Why.

The question Why is an inspirational question. It forces us to think about the motivation of our actions, about what drives us, what makes us want to get up in the morning and meet the challenges of the day.

I scheduled a meeting with an author of 32 Christian books a few months ago. My question was “how do I write my first book?” His first question was “Why do you want to write a book?” Leith Anderson in his book “Leadership that Works” says there are only six questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. The most important question, he writes, is WHY. “He who knows how will always have a job; he who knows why will always be the boss.” [Page 193, Leadership that Works]

Have you ever asked yourself Why? Why did you enter the ministry? Why are you: a Pastor? Parochial School Teacher? Director of Christian Education? Church Administrator? Deacon/Deaconess? College and Seminary are great at helping us with the What and the How and the Where. But from your prayer and devotion, from an intense commitment to our Lord, from an exhaustive search of The Word do we discover the Why of our Call.

One Pastor with whom I worked (many years ago) said that he would honestly prefer to be the custodian of the school than the Pastor of the congregation. Another Pastor confessed to my father (who was an Elder at the time) that he didn’t have any idea what Pastors should do all day. A young man and his wife came into my office saying that he would like to become a Pastor. I asked the obvious question, Why? His response, “Because I like to read.” He thought Pastors spent most days just reading (that was in the 1980’s, so today, some might think we spend our time on Facebook!).

Yogi Berra said: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else!” Being a custodian is an honorable and noble vocation. But for your own sake and the sake of your congregation don’t hold the office of Pastor when you have the heart of the custodian. If you don’t know how to spend your time as a Professional Church Worker, you must be exceedingly frustrated! Find a trusted mentor who can disciple you toward a more rewarding sense of ministry or vocational purpose. If you love to read, great, but find a God-given purpose for whatever you do (Professor, Librarian, Researcher), and with the blessing of God, pursue that vocation with all your might.

“Why” is where our heart is. Perhaps you have seen the Golden Circle popularized by Simon Sinek. At the center of everything valuable in our life is “Why.”  (Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk on the Golden Circle.)

Christian Leadership Matters; it matters SO MUCH that we MUST know our Why. If you know Why, you can endure any What. Are you stressed in your ministry? Too many irons in the fire? Being pulled in too many directions at once? Are you having difficulty dealing with frustration. . . lack of immediate results. . . dealing with difficult people. . . are your most valued relationships suffering?

If so, take some time, as much as you need, and renew your sense of the Why of your Call. Take time, pray, search the Scriptures, talk with trusted mentors, confide honestly with your spouse, reconnect with your God-given Why.

Then — and this is quite important — WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU DISCOVER. Map out your Why as completely and as detailed as possible. Over time, edit, revise, rewrite, rethink, continue in prayer, ask God for clarity, ask your trusted partners and mentors for honest feedback. Make your written Why a foundation for the renewal of your Call. Find a certified and professional Coach (your District or denominational leadership will have a list of qualified Coaches) and if you like, contact The Higher Calling Coach for a free consultation.

Then, no matter What, your Why will empower you to complete that for which you were called heavenward in Christ.

Until next week,

Blessings in Christ,



Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes a blog entitled Christian Leadership Matters each week. Through his blog and coaching practice, Dr. Pledger seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry they serve. The goal is to find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

Click to sign up for Christian Leadership Matters.  If you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question, email Dr. Phil at:

Seven Ways to Create a Dynamite Team

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Team, and Team Building

Wouldn’t it be great to lead a truly dynamite team? Imagine meeting your ministry team on Monday morning and seeing EVERYONE excited about getting down to work, each doing their best and excited about their next ministry success. Imagine your whole team filled with passion and a deep desire to work according to their own strengths and fully utilizing the strengths of the other team members. . . Imagine a ministry where everyone is passionate about making your ministry vision a concrete reality. . . Imagine!

A great imagination is a wonderful thing. Reality, however, is often little more frustrating. As great as imagination is, imagination alone doesn’t create  excellent teams. Imagination must be linked with concrete practical plans in order to have the power to change anything. Formation of a world-class team is built from the ground up, not handed down from heaven above. How can we build a dynamite team? Here are Seven Ways to Create a Dynamite Team:

  1. Know your Goal

Leaders have concrete vision. Yogi Berra said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.” Wise words. Most people in ministry (or in business, for that matter) are motivated to do something, but they aren’t sure what. Unless you know your ministry direction, how is it possible to convince others to follow you? And, even if you can convince others to follow, a smart person will soon leave when they are recruited by a leader with a vision. I’m convinced a lack of vision is one of the major reasons congregations and other ministries struggle; people are frustrated by a lack of vision yet too loyal to their congregation or denomination to leave, so they stay around and complain about their frustrations. . . and little if any progress is made.

  1. Overshare your Vision

It’s difficult to overshare a vision, but when in doubt, share again. When you recruit people to your ministry team, make sure they KNOW and BUY INTO your vision. Your vision must be your ministry passion; EVERYONE ON THE TEAM must completely understand your vision and want what you want.

  1. Recruit Mission Partners, not Friends

Ministry leaders have a fine line to walk; you want to be “friends” (or more Biblically, Brothers/Sisters in Christ), but you are called to the mission of Christ. Effective ministries, just like effective businesses (and NGO’s, government agencies, and every other type of organization), exist to accomplish a mission. Therefore, make sure your team knows that the MISSION is more important than the participation of any individual (including the existing leader). The mission of Christ will get done with or without “me”; my job as a Christian leader is to faithfully focus on my calling in Christ and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

  1. Show the Ropes

Apparently an old nautical term, “show them the ropes” means to demonstrate the proper way to set the sails so that the ship will safely and effectively navigate the ocean and reach their chosen destination. You may recruit very successful people to your ministry team (and you should!), but that doesn’t mean they fully understand how Christian “ministry” works. You’ve heard the expression: “When all you have is a hammer, all the world’s a nail.” People will use the tools they know and understand. Your job as leader is to “show them the [Christian ministry] ropes.” Patiently and strategically equip your team members to become expert ministry team members. That’s your role as a Christian leader, to equip, teach, train, explain, share, encourage, and help each team member reach their fullest potential in Christ.

  1. Create Experts

As you develop your ministry team, choose wisely. Where possible, recruit people according to the needs of the ministry and according to your vision of the future of that ministry. As you “show the ropes” develop the attitude that you are equipping your team to be experts in their field. Are you the smartest person in the room? If you are, then you will do whatever you can to elevate your team members so that each team member becomes the smartest person in the room in regards to their ministry area. Small minded leaders like warm bodies to validate their leadership. Good leaders seek to attract team members smarter than themselves; AND they work hard to help their team members become even smarter and better equipped and even more effective than they alone could ever be. Tom Peters: “Leaders don’t create more followers, they create more leaders.”

  1. Encourage Mistakes

OK, this might seem weird, but I believe it to be good advice. This doesn’t mean that you encourage people to try to do things wrong. . . quite the opposite. Encourage your team members to try new things, to push the envelope, to discover the boundaries of what works and what doesn’t. Every good and new ministry approach was once unconventional (and perhaps even considered unorthodox). Thinking outside the box is healthy for the individual, the team and the Church. Give your team permission to fail, to make mistakes, to fumble the ball (or any other figure of speech you can think of). You will create an atmosphere of joy and creativity; and by doing so, you will increase ministry effectiveness. (By the way: Happy people get more done, attract other happy people, and their  joy is efficacious – happy people will attract like-minded people into your ministry, people who want to be a part of the fun! — just say’n).

  1. Know your Team as Individuals

To build a dynamite team, you gotta know A LOT about the players. How many hours will a football coach spend recruiting and getting to know a player’s skill set, how fast they run, how far and accurately they can throw a ball, how well they catch, etc.? You are the coach of your team and you need to know your players very well. What are their particular set of skills, what expertise do they already have, what limitations might they have, and what is their ministry passion? A great leader knows their team members and gives them opportunity to serve in their areas of strength and helps the “players” shore up areas of relative weakness.

Your next team meeting might not be perfect, but over time, it can become better, and filled with joyful effectiveness for the cause of Christ. If you would like to talk about it, contact me!


Dr. Phil Pledger is The Higher Calling Coach and writes Christian Leadership Matters blog each week, a weekly blog that seeks to help Professional Church Workers discover and enhance the leadership skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and in the ministry with which they are connected. As “The Higher Calling Coach,” Dr. Pledger helps Professional Church Workers and the ministries they serve find new ways to meet challenges, overcome roadblocks, and to find joy in serving Christ and His Church.

If you don’t want to miss his blog posts, sign up for his newsletter at: Email Coach Phil at: if you would like to set up a no-cost/no-obligation consultation or would like to ask a question.