The #1 Essential for Your Ministry Team.

Trust is probably the most oft-mentioned and common ingredient within great ministry teams. Experts from all fields of team building agree on this team essential. No matter what the team ingredient or value is that is being discussed or developed, they really all have their roots in trust or team trust. For example, honesty is an essential value of team, but upon what is it founded? It is founded upon trust. In order for me to be honest with my team or teammate, it is essential that I feel that I can trust them.

Another value great teams strive for is innovation and initiative. Both of these are vital to a team, but without trust people are hesitant to innovate or initiate. Innovation requires a certain trust that the team is allowing you some room to experiment, to try things, to think outside of the box (or circle) and to engage the opportunities you and your team recognize. Without a sense of trust, there is really little room for innovation; and there is no air to fuel it. If the fear of failure is present rather than trust then you will not have the environmental “oxygen” you need to succeed.

But how is trust developed? Where does it come from? How can it be nurtured? And, how can we get a group of people to trust their team leaders and to trust one another?

It’s simple, but challenging: Team trust is a process. It takes time, but it is something that is built and added to with ever task accomplished, every promise kept and every concern addressed. Building trust on a team is not at all unlike building trust in a marriage.

Have you ever watched someone walk through unfaithfulness in their marriage? It is so devastating to observe a spouse who has endeavored to remain faithful only to find out that their husband or wife had broken that faith. Unfortunately, I have sat with one too many men who have cheated on their wives who have desperately asked me, “How can I get my wife to trust me ever again?”

My answer is simple and direct: “Trust is much more quickly lost than it is built. Building trust is a patient process, one day and one step at a time. Your breach of faith destroyed their trust and they cannot and will not be brought back to full trust in a brief moment. You have to earn that trust one faithful day and one faithful promise kept at a time.”

Faithfulness and trust go hand in hand. This is also true on a team. Team leaders and members will often want their teams to quickly pour their trust into their latest idea or plan, but trust is something that grows over time and amidst the journey of dreaming. It is a sacred trust; hard fought for, but well worth the effort. It is earned by consistency of character and behavior, by planning and the accomplishment of team goals together.

While a decision to trust the team with a short-term plan or idea is one thing, developing the deep trust required to accomplish great goals and to see God build great ministries and a great church is yet another. Deep trust will take deep time and deep and faithful action to develop. But, it is absolutely worth it!

Here are some things that build trust on a team:

  • Promises made and kept.
  • Intent, focused and reflective listening to each person’s ideas and opinions.
  • Asking about team members’ personal needs and families; and, then, checking back in with them.
  • Remembering special occasions in your team members’ lives.
  • Straight and honest talk.
  • Loyalty to the team and team members.
  • Emotional honesty (When you’re glad about something – let them know; when you are angry –let them know.)
  • Accurate numbers in reports (no skewing or fudging of numbers).

Here are some of the things that erode trust on a team:

  • Cloaked confrontations (i.e., those times in which you really want to confront one particular team member, but instead in the name of convenience or cowardice you confront the entire team and leave them try to figure out just who it was meant for).
  • Unnecessarily long team meetings (i.e., wasting their time because you haven’t planned out your own well enough).
  • Delaying commitments.
  • Talking critically about a team member when they are not present to respond.
  • Postponing decision-making without good reason (i.e., hitting decision-making “snooze alarms”).
  • Talking negatively about a team member who is absent from the meeting.
  • Unkept promises.

A team that wants to accomplish reasonable goals has to have the ingredient of trust. A team that wants to accomplish exceptional goals, must have an exceptional sense of trust.

Make no mistake. People deeply desire to work in an environment of trust.

Perhaps the most important question that team members, and potential team members, are asking (and asking frequently) about their team leader is – Can I trust them?

(Excerpted from The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration )