Trust is a fragile. Trust is the foundation of all healthy relationships. Trust takes a lifetime to build but can be lost at a moment in time. You cannot grow a church without trust.
When you talk about trust or distrust with pastors and church leaders, it almost always falls into two categories – sex and money. And while there has been some very public failures in these areas, I would submit to you these are not the areas most church members distrust their church leadership.
After countless conversations and almost three decades of personal leadership experience, I would submit the two areas where pastors and church leaders are least trusted by their congregations are…..Competence and Execution.
- Competence is defined as “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.”
- Execution is defined as “the carrying out or putting into effect a plan or course of action.”
Trust is most often lost not in whether the pastor or church leader is a good person, has the fruit of the Spirit, is Godly, has high moral character or whether you personally like them or not.
Trust is lost because of broken promises, continual missed expectations, empty high-church rhetoric, lack of movement, inability to make a decision, perpetual stalling in the name of prayer, faulty systems, recklessness, plans which are not well thought through, not addressing issues, repeated poor decisions and multiple failed ministry initiatives.
When pastors and church staff are not trusted, you see the following:
- Polite smiles as vision is being cast.
- Shoulders slumped or shrugged.
- Blank faces indicating apathy.
- Leaders leaving the church or leveraging their financial resources to other churches or organizations with greater Kingdom impact.
- Increased absences at leadership meetings.
- Increased efforts not in the church but parachurch organizations.
You also hear phrases like these:
- “I’ve heard this many times before.”
- “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
- “We never get anything right.”
- “Why didn’t they call me. I could’ve helped.”
- “Same ole. Same ole.”
- “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
- “They don’t have a clue what they’re doing.”
- “They’ll rotate off the Board soon.”
So the questions becomes how do you increase congregational trust? Leaders increase congregational trust by making and executing wise and timely decisions over an extended period of time. In other words, get some wins under your belt. This builds confidence and credibility allowing you to make more important decisions moving forward.
For example, let’s look at the life of David. David slayed the bear, then slayed the lion, and only then slayed Goliath.
People trust pastors and church leaders who:
- Return calls within 24 hours.
- Complete assignments with excellence.
- Have everything ready when people show up to meetings or events.
- Are proactive.
- Show up to meetings prepared.
- Don’t waste others time. It’s the only thing you can’t give back.
- Ask good questions. Are a learner.
- Admit mistakes and ask forgiveness. Are humble.
- Include volunteer leaders in the decision and execution process. Frankly, they’re probably better at it than most staff.
- Apply volunteer skill to task.
- Have meetings before the meeting.
- Put on good quality events showing you have given it much thought.
- Deliver sermons which answer the questions people are asking.
- Demand and do things with excellence.
- Have the courage to make hard decisions and be willing to live with the results.
- Are committed to the vision and do not let others hijack it.
- Build mutually beneficial relationships with leaders.
- See potential in others and unleash it.
- Showed you have studied and are prepared.
- Finish on time.
- Do things which are memorable.
These are things every pastor and church leader can do to increase trust. And when you do them, you will then gain the support, credibility, funding and trust to attempt even greater things.
Church members know pastors and church leaders are not perfect. They understand seminary taught you Greek and Hebrew but not how to be a CEO of an organization. They appreciate the fact you tried something and it failed because you were trying to reach lost people.
However, your congregational leaders simply will not accept sanitized incompetence, inefficiency or a lack of preparation because it was done in the name of Jesus. That would not be an acceptable excuse where they work. And it is not an acceptable excuse where pastors and church leaders work either.
Trust can be gained or lost by if you are making and executing wise and timely decisions over an extended period of time. Make good ones and if you don’t know what to do, ask for help. Trust me.