As church leaders, we’ve studied and earned advanced degrees; we’ve attended many leadership classes, seminars, and conferences; and we’ve taught on the topic of leadership, management, and the role of being a pastor. We are all experts in our field.
Sometimes, though, it feels like we are disconnected from the very people we are so very well-trained to lead. It may feel as if, no matter how hard we try, we can’t build the relationships we want to build. We can’t take the church forward in the way we envision it moving. Bottom line? We may end up feeling like our members don’t trust our leadership.
This is not a great feeling! And as church leaders, the issue of trust and credibility is one we must commit to strengthening. It’s not easy, but it’s also not impossible. It takes a lot of effort, but in the end the effort will be worth it.
As a starting point, here are three essential keys to building the trust and credibility we need to foster meaningful relationships with the people in our church today.
Key 1: Transparency
Hiding things as a church leader is a slippery slope. Yes, privacy and confidentiality are necessary things. However, there is also a fine line between privacy and secrecy. People want to know that you will share with them the things they need to know about you that make you a genuine and authentic person. The topics on which transparency are important run a wide range. Personal finances, marriage relationships, the cost of homes, cars, and vacations…all of these seemingly private matters are things that require some level of transparency when we make the choice to become the leader of a church. We become accountable to those we lead as well as to God. Accountability gains us trust and credibility that can be gained in no other way. Sacrificing a degree of our privacy pays big relational dividends in the long run.
Key 2: Connection
The people in your church want to know you. Truly know you. They want to be free to talk to you on a personal level. They want to know about your spouse and your children. They want to know about your hobbies as well as your likes and dislikes. They want to know your quirks and your passions. They want to know that you’ll listen to everything they have to say when they share from their heart. They want you to be approachable. Ultimately, parishioners want to be able to connect with you on an individual level, on their timeline, and in their way. This takes a huge amount of emotional energy for church leaders, especially when there is one of you and hundreds or even thousands of churchgoers. Trust and credibility rely on being someone willing to connect with others. Giving of yourself will be worth it.
Key 3: Consistency
The people in your congregation want to know they can count on you. They want to know that you are reliable and that you keep your word. They want to know you are the same person in the pulpit that you are behind closed doors. Leadership calls for an incredible amount of consistency in attitudes, in behavior, and in beliefs. Members can recognize when we as leaders are not practicing what we preach. Therefore, we must strive for consistency in every part of our life if we want others to trust us and grant us credibility as we lead the church. Members want to know what they’re going to get when they interact with us. It’s our duty to demonstrate genuine reliability and steadiness that mirrors the reliability of God in a practical and everyday manner.
Building trust and credibility with the members of our church does not come without effort. It must be a conscious choice that we make day after day and a commitment we make to ourselves and to all those around us. In the end, we won’t be disappointed. The relationships we’ll be able to build will be worth it and, ultimately, God will get the glory.