If you have been struggling to make changes or build unity amongst your staff or congregation you need to ask yourself a hard question. Does your church trust you? Establishing personal credibility is an essential to successfully serving as a Senior Pastor.
People should be able to rely on their pastors to do the right thing, show up well and in helpful ways, and provide guidance when needed. Without the trust of their people, pastors will not be able to lead effectively in any of the other major areas their ministries will require.
Establishing Personal Credibility
For the purposes of the Senior Pastor Profile, Establishing Personal Credibility means representing Christ in word and deed genuinely and consistently.
As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:1: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. As Paul trains others to lead the work of the ministry, he likewise places that kind of personal integrity and credibility high on the list of requirements:
Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:2-7)
Senior pastors must demonstrably live the kinds of lives that inspire others to follow and trust.
7 Habits that Demonstrate Personal Credibility
What does it look like for someone to establish personal credibility? Although it’s a bit different for everyone, here are some of the features held in common:
1. Demonstrates integrity consistently
A children’s book defined integrity powerfully as “who you are when no one is looking.” If you are in ministry, people are watching. They watch the way you drive, interact with your neighbors, and how you treat restaurant servers. They will see if you aren’t practicing what you preach. When a pastor fails to act Christlike, the tsunami surges out from their personal life and throughout the community. The effects are devastating.
2. Does not compromise on biblical principles
Being a pastor means standing for biblical truth even when it’s not easy to do. There are plenty of gray areas in theology—those aren’t the hills you die on. But if your priorities compromise the Greatest Commandment or the Great Commission, your ministry your ministry is in trouble.
3. Presents oneself authentically
It’s true that sometimes we have to rise up beyond our feelings and circumstances but in ministry “fake it ‘til you make it” is a slippery slope. People looking for hope aren’t looking for perfection; they are looking to see how Jesus affects your real life circumstances in an honest way.
Another way pastors can fail to present themselves authentically is by trying to recreate the success of others. You are called to use your God-given strengths and gifts to fulfill the unique vision God has given you. In doing so you will reach different people than the church across town.
4. Holds oneself accountable
A senior pastor needs strong guard rails. Veering into the gutter could be disastrous. There is too much at stake to play around with vision, conviction, or obedience to the Word of God.
5. Proves to be trustworthy
Follow up is everything when building trust. What are the little promises you make from the pulpit? What about in the foyer or parking lot? If you are saying you care, how are you showing it? Pastors with growing churches need to be careful to maintain trust. With growth there is a loss of capacity to follow up as you did before. Planning to meet needs and developing support and ministry flows are really important in maintaining trust as your church grows.
6. Handles sensitive information with discretion
Holding space for people to share their hopes and dreams–as well as their darker moments–is a great honor and a big part of the job of a senior pastor. If you are talking to them about others, smart folks will assume you are also talking to others about them–and limit what they share with you.
7. Responds positively to constructive feedback
People aren’t shy about giving feedback to their senior pastors. Unfortunately, the bad and ugly can be much more common than the good. Believe it or not, most people are trying to help. And sometimes the Spirit will speak hard truths through others. But not everything you hear will be good advice or even accurate. Much may be more about the person talking than about you. In some cases listening is all that is needed. In all cases believe the best in others, listen well, respond humbly.
How well are you establishing personal credibility?
The two essential components of this question are 1) how you live your life, and 2) how you allow others to see you live your life. For instance, if you are living as you believe would be honoring to Jesus, you still may not be establishing personal credibility if you aren’t letting anyone close enough to see your life as it really is. We need to live with authenticity and honesty before others rather than in isolation.
If you would like to assess yourself in this area, take some time to reflect on the following questions. Write out your answers for more complete processing, or talk them through with someone if you’re more of a verbal processor.
- How have you demonstrated your integrity… even when it was difficult?
- To whom do you present yourself authentically? Consider different levels of the closeness of relationships and the appropriate amount of transparency for each.
- How have you handled a time when you were wrong? What happened?
- To what degree do people feel comfortable sharing sensitive information with you?
- When have you received feedback with graciousness even when it was difficult?
Establishing personal credibility is one of the twelve qualities that have been proven to be essential to successful and healthy senior church leadership. To learn more, read The BEST qualities in a Senior Pastor. Next week, look out for another crucial quality for senior pastors.
The more you develop your emotional intelligence skills, the more you are likely to be able to respond appropriately to most situations you encounter. Gain skills in how to perceive or sense emotion, understand and manage emotions, and use emotions to assist thought with the Emotional Intelligence Skills Builder. Coach or develop others using the Emotional Intelligence Coaching Guide and Storyboard.
Effective listening is hearing what people are really saying. Like any other skill, listening needs to be practiced if it is to be mastered. Assess your listening skills with the Effective Listening Profile then become a better listener by working through the Effective Listening Skills Builder. Coach or develop others using the Effective Listening Coaching Guide and Storyboard.