Trust Busters & Trust Builders

Welcome to Priority Pastor, this is Daren Wride. I’m going to talk today about trust busters and trust builders.

A question we find helpful to ask going into transitional situations where there’s often been a crisis of some kind or some kind of awkward pastoral transition, is to ask the leadership both, formal and informal- that would be your board of elders as well as people who are just part of the church, but influential long term members- ask them what kinds of things that if you did them inadvertently would would break trust, would raise suspicion, would put up a wall between you and the congregation. And these are things that are not necessarily bad things, but because of the history and the culture of the church in the community, they would immediately break trust.

For instance, I went into one church and when I asked this question, right away some of the people said don’t use the phrase “on the bus, off the bus.” That whole terminology about the right seats in the bus… The previous pastor really used that phraseology a lot and always challenged people to get on the bus or get off the bus in a very dictatorial, almost offensive kind of way. They said any kind of phraseology like that is going to put up an immediate wall.

Another transitional situation a friend of mine went into, he used the analogy of transitional ministry being working on a plane while it’s flying. The ministry needs to keep going. Sunday keeps happening. There needs to be finances and facilities cared for and staff and so the plane is flying, you’ve got to work on it while it’s flying and try to keep it from crashing.

And it’s an interesting analogy. Nothing inherently wrong with it. However years before in that community, which was a fairly small community, there’d been a significant plane crash that led to several fatalities. It was a national level news story and it was a tender spot in the church and the use of that phraseology, he was told later, that when you used that analogy, that was inadvertently offensive and chilling over the congregation and was not helpful whatsoever.

Other examples I bumped into are sports team loyalties. Some areas, whether the sports team is in the community itself or in the region, some areas are so loyal to certain sports teams that if you take a shot at them, there might be some trouble.

I accidentally did something similar once where I asked one church I was preaching in as a guest preacher, a fairly large church, I said “How many people here like country music?” And all these people whooped and hollered and put their hands up and I said “That’s really interesting, because in my home church when I ask that question nobody blinks because they know it means I’m about to mock country music.” And right out of the crowd, one of the people in the crowd who was a country music singer, said “Watch it!” And there was some offense taken that I would slight country music.

So there are different things you don’t know about, but if you ask the leadership and ask long term members, they might think of some things and often they’re simply associated with the previous era; a previous pastor or previous leaders, previous incidents that you would know nothing about. Aligning yourself with those things or those people would break trust.

The flip side of course is trust builders. There are things that you can do in any congregation, especially if you’re a new pastor to immediately build trust.

One of the most common, and I still shake my head when I think of this, but one of the most common things you can do to build trust as a leader in a congregation is simply keep your word. Do what you say you’re going to do. Lay out plans and then follow them.

I went into one church where we started a sermon series and after the third or fourth message in the series, it was about an eight week series, someone came to me [and said] “Wow this is amazing. It looks like you’re actually going to finish the series.” I said “What do you mean?” He said “Well, the previous situation, there were all kinds of things that were started and never finished. In fact they once started one of the 40 day series, 40 days of something. We did two of the six or seven messages and then just carried on with other things without any announcement that the series was over and was never completed. And that happened again and again and again.”

A similar thing happens in organizational plans and processes. When we lay out our transitional plan, we have a graphic that shows the different stages of transition and as we work through different meetings we will put an arrow that says “You are Here” showing where we’re moving along, showing the projected dates of different things. Simply following a process like that really does seem to build a lot of trust.

There are other things you can do to build trust, but simply keeping your word, doing what you’re saying, listening to people, not necessarily agreeing with everything or jumping when they say jump or when they want you to respond to to their own little pet theology, but simply listening and hearing people out and asking questions builds trust. Because the truth is, there are a lot of leaders out there who don’t listen, who simply plug their ears, put on the blinders and barge ahead, bull in the china shop, without any recognition to the whole relational side of ministry.

And I say that as a person who’s very task oriented, that you need to pay attention if you’re going to build trust to the relational side of ministry and the fact that the church is a community. The church is a family. It’s about people. It’s about relationships. It’s about mutual submission- Ephesians 5:21- recognizing the inherent giftedness and presence of the Spirit in every other believer.

So take some time. Think of your current ministry context or a future ministry context that maybe you’re heading into. Do some digging to find out what the trust busters are, take them out of your vocabulary, off the table. Find out what will build trust and then go there. When you have trust as a leader the battle is half won.

God bless. Press on. Thanks for listening.

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