The Trust Factor in Team Building
Every pastor is looking for a quality team of leaders to help fulfill the vision of God in their life. We know we cannot fulfill the vision of God without this incredible resource. Yet, great teams of leaders do not grow on trees. We know the pain of putting our trust in leaders who would let us, God, and the vision down. This leader looked so good, said all the right things and even seemed to share our passion. When it came down to performance, it just did not happen. It left you in a bind, and the vision seemed to screech to a halt. Instead of you moving forward at a rapid pace because of a great team, it was now time for damage control. You had to move away from the vision to heal the hurt left in the wake of this supposed leader. In some cases, this leader even turned on you and made you out to be the bad guy. We have all been there. If you haven’t, you haven’t been a leader long enough. It happens to us all!!!
I am blessed to have some experience underneath my belt. David said, in Psalm 37:25 (NLT) “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.” David had some experience under his belt that allowed for him to gain great wisdom about the character of God. I can say I have been young, and am getting older, and I have experienced a few things about leadership. I know what it is to start a small church and have to build leaders. I also know what it is to have a large enough church that we cannot function one Sunday without great leadership teams. I am now moving into another time of my life that the vision is big enough that we must have an efficient system to reproduce leaders. This experience has stabilized my evaluation of leaders. I am by nature a passionate visionary, like most pastors are. I see the direction or vision that has not yet been forged, and impulsively build a team to accomplish the God-given goal. I have of found that it is easy to get a room full of people pumped about what God is ready to do. The problem is actually accomplishing the God-given task without people being damaged.
I used to get enamored with what many people call “High Capacity” leaders. These leaders were well spoken, well educated, and seemed to have it all together. I would spend time with them, build a relationship with them, and then let them fly. Over and over again they crashed and burned, and the plan of God with it. I believe we are like Samuel in 1 Samuel 16, when he went to Jesse’s house to anoint the next king. He took one look at Eliab and said this has to be the next leader. God said people look on the outward appearance, but I look at the heart. I heard one person say, “It is not the Leadership Capacity that is the most important, but the Core Capacity,” which I believe is the heart. Our Core Capacity is our character. Certainly, we want people to be gifted in an area and competent, but without character our leadership influence is destroyed.
The first step of our Core Capacity is a person we can trust. Trust is the foundational principle of leadership and influence. The meaning of trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. Trust comes in so many forms. Can you trust someone to tell you the truth even when it hurts? When you give someone a task or a project, will they follow all the way to completion, or at the first sign of difficulty will they bail? Furthermore, if they mess up, can they own their mistake or do they play the blame game? When you, as the pastor, have a bad day how do they respond? Do they talk behind your back, or do they have your back. When circumstances appear as if you have made a huge mistake, do they come directly to you, or do they spread rumors? These trust issues are huge for me. I will overlook, or try to help issues that leaders and staff have. I believe this is the heart of a pastor. Trust is not one of those things I can overlook. Where there is no trust, a leader has lost all influence, and relationships are broken.
So, the question, is how do we find leaders with the trust attribute? I believe the first thing we have to do is make sure we are trustworthy. Do we always speak the truth even if it hurts us or makes a situation a little uncomfortable? Sometimes, we would rather look the other way so that no one gets hurt. In the long run, the truth will always come out, resulting in the hurt being multiplied. Do we believe the best about people? Do we have one another’s backs? When we give trust, it breeds trust. We love to quote Luke 6:38 at offering time, “Give and it shall be given to you.” That scripture really is not about money. It is about relationships. When you trust people, it will create an environment where people can be trustworthy.
So, let’s say you have the trust thing down in your own life. Is that enough? I think there is another step that is vital. We have come to the conclusion that anyone who leads in our organization must go through this step. It is a simple trust test! The thing about this test is that it is not something that you can complete in a few minutes or hours. It is the kind of test that God gave Abraham. You all know the story about Abraham, whom in his old age had a son of promise, and then God asked him to sacrifice that very son. Genesis 22:1 states, “God tested Abraham’s faith” (NLT). After Abraham passed the test, God said through an angel in Genesis 22:12 (NCV), “Don’t kill your son or hurt him in any way. Now I CAN SEE that you trust God and that you have not kept your son, your only son, from me.” The God that created the heaven and the universe wanted to SEE if He could trust Abraham. Abraham trusted God, and God could trust Abraham. God then said to Abraham, “Because you have obeyed I will bless you.”
In our ministry, we believe that every person needs to have a testing of sorts before they can really be trusted with leadership. Leadership is influential, and has a huge impact in any ministry. I have learned over time, to slow down and not to promote people too quickly. Before a person can be a leader, no matter how highly qualified they are, they must serve others first. Tested leaders observe their faithfulness. Again, it is a Biblical principle; where you have been faithful over a little, He will make you a leader over much. We move people through the process slowly. The greater the responsibility a potential leader will have, the greater the test. If someone struggles, we work with them. If they improve, over time, they are promoted. If not, we don’t. We have learned over the years to never hire or place anyone in an important role until we are confident in their core competency of trust. Even when we hire someone, they understand the first year is a year of testing with quarterly evaluations. It is easy to put a leader in a position. However, it is brutal to remove them. There is something so satisfying to be confident in a tested leader.
We had a young man who came to our church who was extremely talented. He was a natural born leader, great in front of people, anointed, and could even sing. At every church he attended, he was promoted. He came to our church and through time began to shine. He was placed in mentoring relationships. Through this process we found that his work ethic was less than stellar. Three different leaders confronted him, in love, concerning that issue. We explained he would never reach his potential with this issue. We could not completely entrust him with leadership because of this. He would get better for a season only to drift back into his bad habit. In love, we began to reduce his role in the ministry. Over time, his heart hungered to use the gift that God had given him. He reconnected, and this time attacked his issue head on. He began by conquering little things, and as he succeeded, he was given more. With each victory, he moved up the ladder of promotion. In January of this year God spoke to my heart about a vision we have put on hold for several years. He showed me that this young man was ready to be the team leader in this endeavor. He was tested and tried, and had gained our trust. Real discipleship had taken place, and the vision of God would be accomplished.
The trust factor is a core quality to look for in building your team. Show yourself trustworthy. Give people the opportunities to be proven. Mentor those who are teachable through instruction, correction, and love. Promote those who have shown themselves to be trustworthy. A team that can be trusted is a team that you can rely upon to stand strong with you, even during challenging seasons of change and growth.