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No Trust, No Team

By Tim Downey March 30, 2015

We all know that trust is a basic necessity for working with other people. So why is it missing from so many ministries?

Your staff has probably gone through trust seminars, trust exercises, trust conversations, and maybe even a few trust falls. Yet, as much press as the subject has received, trust is the number one issue facing most ministry teams. Patrick Lencioni, in his bestseller, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, indicates that lack of trust is the primary inhibitor in the growth of teams.

But don’t just take Lencioni’s word for it. Again and again, the Bible reminds us of the importance of trust. It tells us to trust in God when we are afraid (Psalm 56:3), when we are anxious (John 14:1), and for our salvation (John 12:36). It cautions us against trusting in idols, power, money, and other untrustworthy objects. The very thing that would relive our stress, bring contentment, and develop deeper relationships, is in fact, trust—in God and with others.

The concept of trust is quite simple. Lencioni calls it “the willingness of one person to be completely human with another.” That doesn’t sound too tough, does it? However, as we all know, it’s easier said than done. It’s not that we don’t want to trust each other. But old relationships come loaded with baggage—rumors or personality differences or past conflict—and new relationships need time to build a foundation of trust. All it takes is one shirked responsibility or a single mismanaged project for us to completely lose confidence in someone—and sometimes it doesn’t even take that. Trust has to be earned, but doubt and suspicion come completely free.

Help your team buy back that trust. Start by earning their trust in your own leadership; then help them place confidence in one another. Here are a few ways to establish trusting relationships (no trust falls required):

trust_quote1) Develop self-awareness. One thing every ministry team needs—especially ministry leaders—is self-awareness. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses, fears, and insecurities. We’ve all worked with people who are totally oblivious about how they come across to others. Don’t be that person. Until you become self-aware, you will keep running into the same problems, but you’ll never understand why.

2) Ask for help. What’s so hard about saying, “I am not great at everything. I need to grow in these areas. Can you help me?” We have bought into the idea that admitting our need is a weakness. But isn’t that the point of a team? If you didn’t need help, you’d do it all yourself! One of the healthiest things you can do is admit that you need others. As you trust your team to have your back, they’ll trust you to lead them well.

3) Be personable. Spend time with other people. Have conversations. Get to know them on a personal level. Team members won’t trust someone they barely know. So don’t give them that excuse. Know and be known.

4) Be open. Open, clear, timely communication is one of the most positive practices you could ever implement. When we aren’t forthright with others, trust is chipped away.

5) Go first. If you want trust, you must extend trust. Even if you are not the leader, you can still be the first to place confidence in your teammates. Choose to be a pace setter in your leadership team, and transform the atmosphere from a place of skepticism to one of faith in one another.


CC Image courtesy andrewrendell on Flickr.

About the Author

Tim Downey

Tim Downey is an Associate Professor of Youth Ministry, specializing in the areas of discipleship and leadership at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. For 30 years, Tim has served the Christian community as a youth pastor, missionary, college professor, and international speaker. He and his wife, Kaye, have three daughters and one granddaughter. Tim…  Read More