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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 TheHigherCallingCoach.com 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: Phil@TheHigherCallingCoach.com.

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