Interpersonal Leadership: Trust-Building
“Competency: Preparedness for Ministry Leadership Tasks” (SL#79)
By Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 7.2 - Trust-Building

“Competence” may have a very special meaning within the theme of the 52nd NACBA Annual Conference, “Pickin’ Your Tune—Writing a New Song.” It could mean that you have the essential capacity to understand and choose: what your current job (tune) requires; how to perform it well and what you need to learn; what options, resources, and decisions are open to you; and how to compose a joyful new song of expanded opportunities to honor God, serve His kingdom, and bless others.

“A willingness to trust the other person depends on your estimate of the person’s competence to perform the task at hand. Trust is task-specific—that is, leaders may trust someone with one task but not with a different task. . . Competence is a necessary component of trustworthiness, but competence alone does not earn trust. It is, however, a critical beginning.”
--A Claim for Competence, Tasks, and Trust: – from Dale E. Zand, The Leadership Triad, p. 114

1. What Does “Competence” Mean Today?

So, competence is the spiritual, mental, and physical capacities to perform a specific job! The question is, “Are you prepared for your ministry service and leadership tasks?” Are you up to each challenge? When it comes to consistent performance, “can you cut it?” Are you able to do this assigned task, but not that one? Are you in overall “high performance fitness?” Do you “have what it takes to get the job done?” However we may ask the question, the answer we give about our competency level really does matter. Big time!

My Reflection: As I reflect on my twenty-two years of pastoral ministry, and three decades since, the “competency question” was often addressed directly and indirectly. I found it to be a probing expectation of myself, of fellow staff members, and key lay leaders. Far too often when I failed at some point of competency in ministry, I knew it, was frustrated, even embarrassed. But then my better self responded in a way that proved beneficial—to be motivated toward improving my capabilities and performance through self-awareness, training and practice. Also, when I did accomplish a worthy task with effectiveness, it was encouraging and gratifying more than just a flush of pride.

2. Competency: What is the Biblical View of Preparedness?

Competency as preparedness for the service of Christ is worthy of a fresh review, starting with a biblical viewpoint. Competency is expressed in the Old and New Testament texts, and by a variety of rich terms such as: to do your best, to prepare, to put things right; and by workmanship, skill, gifts, talents, and good works. Among the texts are:

3. Competency and Trust-Building: Research to the Point
A principal interest in this article is to focus on how competency contributes to trust-building in service and leadership. Consider the findings of outstanding authorities in the fields of leadership, management, service:

Scholtes, because the new competencies are systems-oriented, summarizes some of the characteristics of a system 1) A system is a whole composed of many parts, e.g. an auto. 2) Each systemic unit has its own definable purpose. 3) Each part of the system contributes to the system’s purpose. 4) Each part has its own purpose, but when it affects the whole system it is dependent on the other parts. 5) To understanding a system, we must understand its purpose, its interaction, and its interdependencies.

4. Competency-Based Training: For Congregational Ministers
(adapted from several sources, including “The Competency-Based Approach to Training” by
Rick Sullivan, Sept.1995:
Competence-based training (CBT) has been a leadership and management movement over the last three decades, and is itself being raised to a higher level of expectation in its actual contribution. Intentionally or informally, churches have been incorporating CBT into traditional training programs. Following is my summary of elements of a CBT (or, “on-the-job training”) system as they relate to Christian congregations, organizations, and ministers:

5. Competency Trust-Building: Actions, Practices, and Behavior
Practical application of this review of competency can be applied to most aspects of your service. Remember, competency is capacity of knowledge and skills put into actual performance. On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high), rate your assessment of your competency level; then plan your training actions!

1st Develop trust by doing your present work consistently well.

_____What is the level of your present performance? Provide your own assessment. Let this be your mindset and your commitment: “I may not know how, but I am learning and I want to be at my very best in each task of my Christian ministry.”
_____Seek excellence in each task that you are expected to do. Develop your own plan for competency-based training, a plan or process that fits your personal reality

2nd Take an Inventory of your Ministry Tasks and Functions

____ Analyze the job description of your ministry position; what does it actually require you to do in order to successfully perform its expectations? Make an annotated list of your specific tasks, even if your job description does not include an up-to-date record.
____ Evaluate your performance in each required function. What do you do well? What do you neglect? What do you think you should do about performance of each ministry task? Ex.: planning, supervision, budgeting, teaching, administration, pastoral care, etc.
____ Listen to your people, not just their criticism or complaints, but the truth behind what they say about your performance level. Analyze such insights and act on them.
____ Set significant performance goals for yourself; stretch yourself in the direction you wish to go, establish a time frame.

3rd Take specific planning and action about competence development based on such findings and personal expectations.

____ Do your best each day with each task; thrill in effective service to others.
____ Commit yourself to life-long professional, personal, and spiritual development. “Trust is task-specific--that is, leaders may trust someone with one task but not with a different task. . . . Competence is a necessary component of trustworthiness, but competence alone does not earn trust. It is, however, a critical beginning.” --Zand, Leadership Triad, p. 114
____ Develop required technical skills for competency in your ministry functions.

____ Enlarge your people skills to high competence levels. Trust-Building by Elder is one of six SkillTrack® Leadership training on interpersonal skills including: self- understanding, trust-building, interpersonal communications, assertive leadership, conflict management, and motivating others.

____Grow with and beyond your present ministry opportunities. Go beyond a maintenance mentality and be ready for the next door opened to you.

Closing Reflection: This article attempts to present and champion one of several ways that any leader, including Christian minister, can set about to build trust by your competent performance in every area of your kingdom tasks. That’s leadership.

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© 2008; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership.