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5 Ways to Build Trust as a Pastor

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Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches

As a church planter, I was coached to keep a close eye on the “economies” that would affect our ability to pursue our mission. “Pay close attention to the critical numbers. Watch the national and local job markets. And watch your Sunday numbers. We count people because people count.”

Overall, this advice is sound. But it’s incomplete. There is another, far more important economy we must keep a careful eye on: the economy of trust. Trust is foundational to everything we do.

‘Good Name’

Trust of a “good name” runs between members and leaders, and within the leadership itself. It’s what Solomon described in Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”

As a church-planting pastor, few things will affect your ability to lead people through difficult seasons like their trust in you. When you have a “good name,” they’re much more likely to both listen to and follow you. Instead of fearing your summons to sacrifice, they’re more likely to hear an invitation to grow in grace. And as you develop a culture that builds trust, the whole community benefits.

As a church-planting pastor, few things will affect your ability to lead people through difficult seasons like their trust in you.

To build trust, people need to see integrity in our intentions, words, and life as a whole. We need to be “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:2). But how do we create this kind of culture in our church plants? Here are five practices that will help build an economy of trust.

1. See people who need to grow, not problems that need to be solved.

A fellow pastor once told me (in jest, of course), “I’d like ministry a lot more if I didn’t have to deal with people who needed my ministry!” If we’re honest, we’re all tempted at times to see problems instead of people. And when this crops up, we must address the root of the issue in our hearts.

Few things will devastate an economy of trust like gossip, slander, or grumbling against others. The real challenge here isn’t loving the unlovable; it’s overcoming the selfish desire to surround ourselves with people who contribute to our low-maintenance, hassle-free lives. Put another way, the real “problem” may not be the people we’re called to shepherd—it could be us and our pastoral entitlement.

2. Keep confidential information private.

Since ministry is about the heart, we’re often privy to the parts of people’s lives that are usually kept locked behind closed doors. Few things will slam those doors shut as quickly as a loose tongue. This sin not only betrays the trust of those who’ve confided in you previously, but it also keeps others from trusting you in the future.

People are listening to you and the stories you tell. If you share someone’s information that wasn’t yours to share, people may laugh along, but they will quietly lock the door on their hearts to ensure that you can’t do the same thing to them.

3. Lead by example.

Integrity isn’t just about what we say; it’s also about what we do. If we want people to trust our words, they must see them at work in our actions.

Since we tell people that it’s good to foster a servant’s heart, we must be content to be treated like servants.

Since we tell people it’s good to foster a servant’s heart, we must be content to be treated like servants. Since we tell people to work for God’s glory, we must be diligent and productive. Since we tell people to rest in God’s proficiency and power by observing a sabbath, we must repent of our addiction to work and actually rest ourselves. Since we tell people to give financially, we must honor the Lord with the first-fruits of our income.

We shouldn’t be asking anyone to do anything we aren’t willing to do ourselves.

4. Share leadership.

If we want people to trust us, they need to see us trusting them. We won’t build an economy of trust if we don’t actively trust people to do what needs to be done.

This means that we must lead by investing in people to do what would often be accomplished easier, and more efficiently, on our own.

5. Model godly conflict resolution.

I was once told that ministry is a series of hard conversations. The hardest almost always have to do with conflict—especially if we’re the ones at fault. Matthew 5:21–26 tells us to take the first step toward reconciliation by quickly and humbly seeking forgiveness.

An economy of trust isn’t built by being perfect, but by growing a character rooted in grace.

An economy of trust isn’t built by being perfect, but by growing a character rooted in grace. When we humbly own our mistakes, or sin, and then seek restoration, trust often follows. But, church-planting pastors, we need to take the first step here. God often does his deepest work of building trust as we meet people in conflict, armed with humble love rooted in the gospel grace.

Every interaction is making either deposits or withdrawals from our shared bank of trust. Let’s labor to grow that trust.

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