God’s most precious commodity in all the world is people and we must follow suit. Our role as a pastor or staff member is to help grow the church and assist them in being Jesus to the world. If trust erodes, we won’t be effective in ministry. Here are some simple and practical ways to keep gaining ground with the people God has given you to serve.
1) Return Calls and Emails.
We can never become too busy for people. One of the quickest ways to dilute the trust people have given to you is to not return texts, emails, and phone calls. It’s a must for every staff member. Utilize your autoresponder if you are going to be away. Determine a set time that you will return phone calls and emails each day. Turn off your cell voicemail if you can’t seem to get calls returned. Don’t delay on funky matters. In ministry, you will always bump up against that which doesn’t seem right. Don’t delay, respond, have a meeting, talk in person, etc. Always remember, however, that electronic responses and voices mails are forever. Don’t react, respond. If something is both urgent and touchy, a simple response that you received the message and are processing it will work wonders.
2) Plan Ahead.
You can only spring things on people so often, then you get a bad reputation. Planning ahead is one of the best ways you can help your church move forward. Leadership is all about movement. Build trust by doing the hard work of intentionally planning. It’s a sacrificial and loving act to stay ahead of the game for the sake of the flock.
3) Be Unified.
Don’t speak negatively about other co-laborers in the harvest field. Talking about other pastors, staff or church members will be a fast track to losing trust. In the moment, there is a false sense of trust – with whom you are speaking – but what gets said in darkness will be brought to light. Your words will erode trust quicker than you can imagine. Instead, support your senior leader’s vision. Help the church move the ball down the field. Be faithful to build up the ministry of the church. This will build trust.
4) Meet as a Staff to Pray for the Church.
As Tevye sang in Fiddler on The Roof, If I were a rich man, I’d have time that I lack to sit at the church and pray. I would read the Holy Book all day! The typical schedule in the life of ministry leaders and church staff could easily be described as insane! It’s constant, often day and night during certain seasons. However, your people are in the same boat. Life in our culture is crazy and schedules don’s seem to let up. But one thing we have is an obligation to the flock to be their priest – going before God on behalf of them. Setting aside a regular time of prayer as church leaders is a powerful witness and a powerful investment of time in kingdom work. You have the week to serve – start by praying. Since our staff meetings are on Monday mornings at 8:00, we kick off each week with prayer requests for people. This doesn’t mean the staff is the only one that should be praying. You still need a team of prayer warriors in your church. Here are some ways to delegate prayer.
5) Follow Through.
If you say you will do something, do it. It seems so obvious, but it happens more than we think. We don’t follow through. We say we will do something and we don’t. Learn the tricks and the safeguards that help you follow through. When people catch you in the hall on Sunday mornings,, either write down what they say or ask them to send you an email. Unfortunately, we have learned so many great ways to nicely cover up our lack of follow-through. We describe it too nicely with phrases such as, ‘We dropped the ball”, “It slipped off my radar”, “Was I supposed to do that?”. Here and there, some things will slip through the cracks (see, I did it again, I made it sound ok…) but if it happens too often, you’re losing trust. Here’s a challenge, don’t allow yourself to use those phrases. The best ways to respond when you don’t follow through is to say “I’m Sorry” and immediately follow through. Another aspect to building trust on following through is knowing when to say “no.” The best time to say “no” is way before you’ve gotten in over your head. Once you’ve made the commitment, stick with it.
6) Mind Your Manners.
Say “Please” and “Thank You.” Don’t look at your phone while talking to church members or others face to face. Don’t text during meetings. Quit being sarcastic. Smile. Greet people warmly. Shake hands. Make eye contact. Be a good and active listener. Be kind and courteous.
7) Be Present.
This may the most difficult to put into words, but it’s a powerfully simple concept. Be present. When you are there, be there fully. When you have an opportunity to be present in someone’s life, just be there, fully engaged. Anticipate how you can be helpful to them. Be aware of the situations and in this way, you will be building trust. I don’t think there is a formula for being fully present to the people in your church, but there are a couple crucial ingredients. 1) You must develop a heart for your people. You must truly love them. 2) You must make room in your life for being fully present. The busier and more scheduled you become, the harder it is to be fully engaged. You must focus on your ministry – where are you now.
In conclusion, you’ll notice that I didn’t add “being an effective leader” as a way to build trust, assuming this would be understood. We’ve all seen people who have great leadership instincts but wind up blowing it because the little things get in the way. There are also plenty of people who do little things right, but for whatever reason are unable to generally lead well. Solid leadership is the foundation of building trust and trust is the foundation of being the leader of your people.