Communication Making Church Matter Team Building

Building a Culture of Trust

May 23, 2010

This past week our staff went to the beach (Avalon) for our annual planning retreat.  We made great progress in defining some of what next year (September 2010-May 2011) is going to look like: message series, children’s and student programs, major events, etc.  We also discussed new structures for our work together.  Until recently we have been a very small staff, one in which everyone had to do everything sometimes, so when we had meetings everyone came.  Everyone also reported to me.  As we have grown, this has become unhelpful and unmanageable.  Our new structure organizes people into teams based on affinity and hopefully will be more supportive and productive.

We did one other thing on our retreat: we talked about trust.  
Trust is a two fold deal: I trust others, I am worthy of other’s trust, I am trust worthy.  Both are dynamic, they are constantly in flux in any relationship. Here’s why: our basic experience of others is that there are always going to be “gaps” between what we expect from them and what we get from them.  Trust is what we put into those gaps, or what we don’t put into those gaps.  

I must admit that I am not a very trusting person.  I consider myself to be very trustworthy: I almost always do what I say I am going to do, I show up when I am expected, I am not often late for anything I am suppose to be at, you can always count on me to do my job.  But when it comes to trusting others, it is much more difficult for me.  In part because I have had so many bad experiences, and those experiences can influence what I put in the gaps.  It is definitely a challenge for me, especially now that I have so many great staff members who have more than earned my trust.  

As we discussed this openly and honestly, we discovered there are numerous gaps that people identified that have become trust issues among us and under my watch as leader.
This is very painful to deal with, but if I want to be a leader worth following, I am going to have to deal with it, it’s just too serious.  Lack of trust, even a little, can begin a pattern that is out of control and inescapable and destroys a staff or a team or a family.
This week, we are using the following covenant (which we have adapted from others), to try and do better when it comes to trust:

Building a Culture of Trust.

As a staff member, I commit to building the level of trust at Church of the Nativity. This means trusting other staff members and volunteer ministers and working to be someone who is worthy of trust. In light of this value I make the following commitments.
To trust
1.   When I experience a gap between what I expect to happen from another staff member and what happens, I will fill it with trust, I will fill that gap with trust. I will believe the best about the person.
2.   When I experience another staff member speaking suspiciously about still another or other staff members, I will come to the defense of the staff worker in question.
3.   If what I myself experience or see begins to erode my trust in another staff member then I will go directly to that person. Instead of building a case in my mind against him or her, I will keep “short accounts” and speak to them in a timely way.
To be trustworthy
I commit to do what I say I will do when I say I will do it. When I fail to live up to my  commitment, I will inform my team leader and anyone else involved on our staff or volunteer staff. When appropriate, I will offer my apology to them.  This commitment keeps in mind that being trustworthy does not mean being flawless, but being honest and respectful of others.
I commit to not over promising and under delivering. I will not surprise my team leader when I know a project or task is not going to meet expectations of quality or schedule.
3.   If confronted with gaps I have created because I have failed or for some reason failed to inform my team leader about poor performance, I will be honest and tell the truth about why expectations were not met. 
I make this commitment in order to promote a healthy staff culture so that the name of Jesus Christ may be praised and honored through this Church staff.


We were taking a lot of this for granted.  We’re not going to anymore.

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