The Gospel Coalition hosted a round table discussion with Danny Akin, Ryan Kelly, and Colin Smith with one of the questions centered around "How do staff members disagree with their senior pastor?"
The conversation is worth the time to watch, both for first chair and second chair leaders. But the biggest takeaway I had from the discussion wasn't about disagreement, it was about trust. During my doctoral dissertation I polled pastors and staff members about leadership development. A number of staff members emailed asking me not to share their answers, that they had no real relationship with their pastor, or that they didn't feel they could have an honest discussion. At the end of the day, I ended up with a 150 page Seinfeld episode (it was a dissertation about nothing!) because the staff dynamics were crippling. During my defense I even commented to my committee "It was like these people don't know each other."
Which brings everything back to trust. In ministry we don't lead by dangling the carrot of results like in the business world. We lead through relationships. The capacity for our leadership is directly related to the amount of trust people put in us and we foster in them. Without a healthy level of trust, we cannot accomplish anything.
Trust takes time, which flies in the face of our microwave society. If we want to foster trust in others, we have to be willing to last. We have to be willing to accept the fact that trust deposits are pennies at a time. When Kelly and Smith shared about their staff dynamics, they pointed to the overwhelming staff camaraderie they shared. That came after making lengthy trust deposits over years, not weeks or even months. That came after going through difficult times, having victories, the proving ground, and more.
Trust also comes before loyalty, except for us. One of the most uncomfortable meetings I've ever been a part of was when I had a boss demand/expect loyalty, without a track record of showing loyalty to those under him. For us in senior leadership, the loyalty of those we serve with comes after a lengthy period of trust building. But for us, our loyalty to them comes before trust. We must demonstrate to those we serve with that we have their back first.
Pastors and ministry leaders, be willing to work hard to earn trust. Get to know the others you serve with. Love them. Protect them. Serve them. Invest in them.
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.