You Can Build Trust by the Way You Lead Your Church



July 17, 2019

These proven practices create confidence.

You’d think that if a survey were done to identify the profession people view as most trustworthy, clergy would rank near the top, right?. And you’d be wrong. The Gallup organization has been tracking public perceptions of trustworthiness among 22 professions since 1977. Consider this troubling tidbit from their 2017 poll:

One in ten people rated clergy as “low” integrity—its worst performance in this category in 40 years.

When you read statistics like this, it’s easy to think of this as someone else’s problem. But in today’s culture, where examples of misbehavior and financial malfeasance in the church are far too common, guilt by association is a very real threat.

What can you do to cast off that cloak of suspicion and instead inspire trust in your church? Not surprisingly, the key is leadership. Specifically, it’s certain leadership practices that can bolster your church’s reputation. The payoff is high among churches whose leaders concentrate on honesty and openness. Not only does it increase buy-in among your people, but it boosts confidence among those outside your walls, including community members and, yes, financial institutions and other organizations that you may want to partner with.

As for the question of which leadership practices deserve your attention. Working with churches for more than 50 years, the credit union’s staff have been able to identify three initial areas to focus your attention:

  • Church Doctrine
  • Church Polity
  • Financial Accountability

By strengthening your leadership in these key areas, you can inspire the kind of trust that translates into long-term ministry impact.

Why is doctrine a big deal? From the e-book: “Above any other consideration, a church community unites around a shared doctrine. If there’s any doubt that leadership isn’t in step with those church beliefs, confidence in leadership integrity begins to erode.”

As for polity, clarity in church government is vital. Without it, skepticism can creep in. People naturally begin to question what they don’t understand. The e-book stresses that it should be easy for church members to answer questions like:

  • How is the church board selected?
  • How long do they serve?
  • What are the board’s duties?
  • How are decisions made?
  • What documents are available for church members?

Finally, financial accountability focuses on the uncomfortable reality that fraud is frightfully common in churches. According to church law expert Frank Sommerville, one third of churches experience theft every year, and the average loss for each incident is a staggering $120,000. Worse yet, most perpetrators are well established in the church, prominent people with financial access and responsibility.

Category: Ministry Matters