LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – “Ministry runs at the speed of trust.” I am not sure where I heard the statement or if I coined it myself. Either way, I know it is true. When trust is diminished in a church, association or a convention of churches, then ministry is greatly hindered. But when trust abounds, much good Gospel work can be accomplished – and at a healthy pace.
Trust in a church or organization is diminished when there is a lack of transparency, dishonesty, lack of communication, poor accounting practices, spiritual abuse, arrogance, moral failure or a series of bad decisions. Rebuilding trust can take time but, in many cases, it can be done.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I met with a Kentucky Baptist church that had questions about the use of Cooperative Program dollars. The questions were fair, and I hope the answers I gave them were both thorough and helpful. My goal was to provide the clearest and most forthright answers possible so they could have confidence in the entities they were supporting with their limited resources.
Since trust is required for ministry – and leaders want to lead well – leaders are responsible for creating an atmosphere of trust. How can we foster trust in the church or organization we are tasked with leading?
1. Encourage people to ask honest questions. Those who support a ministry financially are stakeholders in that ministry. They should not micromanage the work, but they have every right to understand how things are being done. One way to build trust is to create an atmosphere where honest and fair questions are welcomed. If people have questions about their church or ministry, who better to ask than the leader?
2. Don’t believe gossip about others and ask others not to believe gossip about you. We live in a time when rumors and gossip abound. Too many conversations begin with someone saying, “I heard …” when what we heard has not been verified and may not be helpful. It almost seems that gossip has fallen off the list of sins that God hates. Instead of participating in gossip, invite people to talk to you when they have a question or concern that needs to be addressed. When they do come, be sure and show appreciation that they came to you directly.
3. Be the kind of leader people can trust. When we consistently tell the truth, even when it makes us look bad, we gain the trust of others. I recently spoke up for a leader that I trust without reservation. The reason I trust him is that I have never seen the slightest sign of dishonesty in his life. His credibility is impeccable in my eyes. If he tells me something, I believe him. Strive to have that kind of reputation with others.
4. Learn from other trustworthy leaders. Proverbs 13:20 reminds us that, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.” As we go through life with trustworthy leaders and observe how they handle situations, we can learn what to do and what not to do. The reverse is also true. When we discover leaders who are not trustworthy, we can soon discover why and avoid their mistakes.
5. Apologize quickly and completely when you make a mistake. Every leader wishes he or she could go back and undo several leadership mistakes they made in their lives. Since we cannot undo them, we can in many cases overcome them by taking responsibility, apologizing quickly and putting safeguards in place to protect us from making the same mistake again. Most people in church and ministry organizations are amazingly forgiving if we are honest to admit our fault in a matter.
Those of us in ministry leadership positions realize that our work is far too important to be hindered or slowed. These five directives can help us strengthen trust. What have you found helpful when trust has been diminished?