Recently, I was asked to attend a church business meeting.
The senior pastor had resigned in response to a call to teach at a seminary in Africa. Everyone loved this pastor and while they were sad to see him go, they respected his act of obedience to God’s leading.
The denomination’s regional superintendent held this congregational meeting to share about the “process” that would be implemented to find their next pastor and to answer any questions.
The primary goal of this meeting was to build trust in the process and in those managing the process.
After the superintendent’s presentation outlining the pastoral search, everyone was feeling good about the process and the church members who were assigned to work with the denomination leadership in this project. Everyone appeared satisfied and grateful for the information.
Then it happened.
Someone asked a question that shot a hole a mile wide in the level of trust in the superintendent and in the process itself.
The question went something like this: “I understand that all of the current church administration leadership and staff will be asked to submit their resignation in writing and that it will be placed in their personnel file for one year after the new pastor is in place. Is this true?”
Suddenly, everything changed.
First, came the stunned silence.
Next came the soft sound of blanketed whispers as spouses and friends exchanged comments of disbelief.
Then all eyes slowly turned to the regional superintendent eager to hear his reply.
The superintendent was a smart man. The fleeting look on his face told it all. He understood what had just happened.
To his credit, the superintendent handled the situation the best he could.
He admitted that what was said was true and did a fairly good job explaining the rationale behind this “part of the process”.
But it was too late.
The damage was done.
No explanation would fix the damage to trust that was done in that 30-second question.
How did a 30-second question do such damage to the coveted trust factor ?
Because it left everyone thinking what else were they not told. What other questions should be asked in order to get the complete picture?
Can they recover from this?
Yes, they can with a well initiated plan. But it will not easy. It’s never easy to rebuild trust when it has been compromised this early in the game.
The meeting started out so well. But ended so poorly.
All because of one 30-second question that changed everything.
The sad thing is that the trust that was lost that day could have been avoided.
My Take Away That Day
Trust means confidence. The opposite of trust is distrust. Distrust leads to suspicion. When you trust people, you have confidence in them, their integrity and their abilities. Because trust in the board and processes means everything to your staff, donors, and supporters, transparency and over communication with those who will be impacted by the processes or outcomes is critical to success. Bottom line, during stressful organizational situations, over communicate, over communicate, over communicate.