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

Posted in Christian Leadership Matters, Coaching, Team, Team Building, and Trust


Part 1 of this blog HERE.

Trust is the foundation of leadership. It is difficult to imagine that anything good or lasting could happen in your church, school or organization without an environment of trust. Trust is the foundation of great ministry teams, congregations, families, and societies. “Teams that lack trust waste inordinate amounts of time and energy managing behaviors and interactions within the group (Patrick Lencioni from his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team). [This book is a “must have” in any leader’s library!]

Last week I listed the first three steps toward building leadership trust. They are: 1. Lead By Example, 2. Trust Others, 3. Consistently Communicate. You can access part 1 of this blog here.

Now, (as Paul Harvey use to say) the rest of the story. . .

  1. Build substantive relationships outside the Boardroom. Christian leaders don’t lead in a vacuum. People want and need to know the “real you;” they want to know your motivation for life and leadership. People are anxious to see how you talk with your spouse and kids or how you act when things go terribly wrong. Leadership is tough because a good leader is always acting in the role of a leader, even on the golf course or at the restaurant. Want to be considered a great leader, a leader that engenders high-level trust? Dine with people as friends and colleagues, have coffee “just to chat,” go to a ball game and don’t always talk business. Be genuine. Allow people to know the “real you.” Get to know your people as people; know their kids, their likes and dislikes, what motivates them.
  1. Provide Honest Feedback. For many people in ministry, this is very tough. But learning to provide honest feedback — even negative feedback — is critical to establishing organizational trust. When you have an underperforming Board member (or Elder, Youth Volunteer, Parent helper, etc.), it is the leader’s great privilege and responsibility to help the organization succeed by providing honest feedback. If someone or some group is NOT performing adequately, others on the ministry team will learn and imitate the “acceptable” behavior. If the leader accepts poor behavior (or bad attitudes or substandard work) you will inadvertently set a new LOW standard for everyone else and your ministry will suffer. Honest feedback doesn’t have to be harsh or particularly confrontational, but it does need to occur. Check out The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard for help in providing honest and effective feedback. Much more fun and perhaps even more important is to celebrate good behaviors, excellent performance, and stellar attitudes. Your ministry team will, over time, avoid what the leader reprimands and imitate what the leader celebrates.
  1.   Orchestrate Success.  It is not possible in our sinful world to always and only experience “success.” (We do have the ultimate success in Jesus!) To orchestrate success in this world means: lead intentionally, using well-thought-out plans, so that milestones can be celebrated. There is nothing more de-motivating for a ministry team than a leader who ignores their sacrificial efforts merely because we’re not “there” yet. A good leader orchestrates success; Orchestrating success creates energetic teams who trust their leader who led them to those successes. For example: Let’s say you want a hugely successful VBS this year. OK, create realistic goals but make sure you build in some “successes” such as: Fully Staffed (doesn’t happen every year); Best worship in VBS EVER; three Baptisms resulted; 15 kids from the community we’ve never before met; . . .  Build into your VBS planning the high likelihood of successes you can celebrate as a ministry team AND that you can celebrate with the whole congregation or school or ministry. This builds leadership credibility and engenders trust in you as a leader.
  1.  True Love DOES Say Sorry. The saying (from 1970 movie Love Story) “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” never made sense to me. I love God and I’m always saying “I’m sorry!” I suppose that if we were perfect leaders among perfect people in a perfect world, that saying would be true. But we’re NOT and it ISN’T. A leader, when wrong, MUST be able to apologize. Apologizing is NOT a sign of weakness, but it IS a sign of strength. Nothing breaks trust faster than wronging a person (or a group) and NOT humbly owning up to your error. If you expect other people on your ministry team to apologize when appropriate, you must do likewise. It is not possible to establish a community of trust if the leader cannot be honest with him/herself and with the community.
  1.  Coach. Number eight is near and dear to my heart! Coaching is about: focused conversations that support, encourage, and empower those you lead toward high-performance achievement. When a leader invests him/herself into those they lead with the goal of helping that person reach their highest potential in Christ, high-level trust is created. Help each person on your leadership team become the best they can be; help them become THE expert in their area of ministry or service. Empower those you lead that they might more fully embrace their own calling and become all that God has blessed them to be. That will make you a leadership superstar! For (a LOT) more information about Coaching and/or if you would like to try out Coaching for yourself or your team, visit the website:
  1.  Create Synergy. Ministry should never be siloed. An extreme example of ministry siloing too often occurs when a congregation has bilingual services and neither “congregation” knows anything about “them.” This can even happen when the first service is “traditional” and the second is “contemporary.” One can legitimately ask whether there is ONE congregation or two (sometimes more). Is God’s Word not God’s Word in every part of His Church? Is the Church ONE or are there many “bodies” in the Church (please read 1 Corinthians 12). The leader creates higher level trust when he/she creates ministry synergy; the Adult Bible Class ministers to the primary students. . . who sing in the Traditional Service . . where the contemporary band plays the offertory and leads the closing hymn. . . then leads the contemporary worship in the traditional hymn during second service. . . where the Spanish-speaking service gives testimony via a translator about great things happening at the bilingual Saturday morning men’s fellowship, etc. Synergy is “together energy,” or “shared joy.” A leader will create higher-level trust when they can demonstrate leadership in the Grand Divine Plan rather than “just” a small subset of that plan. God’s plans are always bigger than ours; our opportunity is to share the BIG picture of the great things God is doing!  Use real-life examples of what God is doing in the lives and families of the Sunday School. . . Retell a story told by one of the mid-week attendees. . . create an atmosphere of community wherever possible.
  1. Be Consistent. Few things can destroy trust faster than being inconsistent. Even if you are the GREAT AND MIGHTY LAST HOPE for your organization, inconsistency will be your undoing. We’re not talking about “perfection” or times when mistakes are made. This is about emotional maturity. If you run GREAT and productive meetings but lose your temper when you aren’t getting your way, you will break every bond of trust very quickly. If you are excellent in the public execution of your leadership but have moral failure, you WILL ultimately fail in your leadership role. If you are sometimes kind and forgiving BUT other times harsh and critical, your unpredictability will prevent you from establishing the kind of trust you need for Christian ministry. I knew a leader of a rather large Christian ministry that would, for no apparent reason, blow-up at one of the employees for minor infractions (and do so publicly). But that same person would allow others to get away with consistently unprofessional behavior. He ultimately lost his leadership. To be consistent means to act like the adult in the room even if others are not. Consistency means being the non-anxious leadership presence, being the “reliable one” who inspires confidence in those you lead as they live out their calling.

What has God taught you about building and maintaining organizational trust? Please share! What was your favorite of the ten I shared? What would you like to add? I would LOVE to hear or read your stories of successes as well as those times where you learned a powerful lesson (and would love it even more if you give me permission to share your story with others).

And, if you would like help in establishing trust with your ministry team, contact me, The Higher Calling Coach.

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:

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