Interpersonal Leadership: Trust-Building
“Competency: Preparedness
for Ministry Leadership Tasks”


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?

  • Competence for Christian Ministry – As used in this article,
    the following definition has been hammered out from several significant resources:
    biblical studies, leadership research, and practical experience. It serves
    both as my definition of competency and as a factor in building trust:
  • “Competence that builds trust

    – is a combination of spiritual gifts, values,
    attributes, knowledge, and skills
    – that prepares and enables a Christian minister, lay or staff,
    – to perform a specific task, or set of tasks, even ministry position,
    – within a congregation or organization,
    – to standards required for successful job performance.”

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!

  • Competency is task-specific: We choose a locksmith to fix
    a lock, a carpenter to build a cabinet, a physician to diagnose, prescribe,
    and treat—and a leader to lead. All are trusted because of competence
    for a specific task. Are you trusted because of your competent performance
    in ministry leadership? Competence, as preparedness for performing leadership
    tasks, is found to be one of the key attributes expected of leaders by followers;
    it also consistently builds trusting, productive relationships. This assessment
    is overwhelmingly underscored by research, observation, and experience. Competence
    today is not merely a hot topic, from weighty professional publications to
    water-fountain chatter down the hall. It is an avenue to fulfill your dreams
    and to build lasting trust in your living and in your leading.

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.

  • Competency and Kindred Terms: (from Roget’s New
    Millennium Thesaurus online)
    In private and professional conversations today, do we not use a large number
    of other terms to express the concept of competency? As you assess your own
    preparedness for Christian ministry and leadership, keep in mind the richness
    of words similar to competence, such as: ability, adeptness, adequacy,
    aptitude, capability, capacity, craft, efficiency, effectiveness, endowment,
    expertise, fitness, giftedness, performance, prepared, proficiency, qualifications,
    resourcefulness, skill, skillfulness, strength, sufficiency, talent.
  • Glossary—“competency
    –from Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    1. The state of being competent; fitness; ability; adequacy; power.
    "To make them act zealously is not the competence of law.”–Burke;

    2. Property or means sufficient for the necessaries and conveniences of
    life; sufficiency without excess. "Reason’s whole pleasure, all the
    joys of sense, lie in three words: health, peace, and competence”–Pope;
    "Superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.”—Shakespeare

    3. Law: Legal capacity or qualifications; fitness; as, the competency of
    a witness or of evidence; b: Right or authority; legal power or capacity
    to take cognizance of a cause; as the competence of a judge or court.

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:

  • Key Text–2 Timothy 2:15: “Do
    your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not
    need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”


    Zondervan Commentary: : In these two verses Paul challenges Timothy
    to be an approved workman. …"Do your best" is spoudason,
    which literally means "make haste," and so, "be zealous or
    eager." . . ."one who does not need to be ashamed" is one
    word, the compound adjective anepaischynton (only here in the NT),
    literally "not to be put to shame." Application of competency
    as “one who handles correctly, not deviating from the truth,”
    may be applied as graphic work pictures to your contemporary roles of service
    and leadership:

  • • “holding a very straight course”;
    • “plowing a straight furrow”;
    • “cutting a road across country in a straight direction”;

    • “laying a straight stone wall”;
    • “cutting a straight pattern of cloth”;
    • therefore, “guiding the word of truth in a straight path”
    without turning aside from the truth of the gospel, either in frivolous
    debates or contrary behavior.

  • Ephesians 4:11-13– “It
    was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists,
    and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of
    service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity
    in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining
    to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

    Zondervan Commentary: We read only of those who are appointed to
    leadership. Their ministry, of course, is exercised for the sake of the
    whole community (vv. 12, 13)….(v. 12) The aim of the ministries mentioned
    in v. 11 is now disclosed. It is the equipment of all God’s people for service.
    "To prepare" (pros ton katartismon) is "to put right."
    In surgery katartismos is applied to the setting of a broken bone
    (BAG, p. 419). In the NT the verb katartizo is used for the mending
    of nets (Matt 4:21) and the restoration of the lapsed (Gal 6:1). . . (v.
    13) The ultimate end in view is the attainment of completeness in Christ.

  • John 15:4– “Remain in
    me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must
    remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
    (NIV) Application: As recorded in John’s biblical
    witness, the most essential preparation for Christian service is an intimate,
    empowering relationship with Jesus Christ. Without Him, we are not prepared
    to do the largest or smallest of tasks.
  • Romans 12: 6-8“We have
    different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is
    prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving,
    let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let
    him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give
    generously; if it is leadership; let him govern diligently, if it is showing
    mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
    (NIV) Application:
    In this text, we are instructed to practice the particular spiritual gifts
    we are given by the Lord, and to do so with task-specific competence. That
    is how significant and far-reaching competence really is. Other biblical passages
    (such as Exodus 26:1, 31 and 31:1-11; 1 Chronicles 15:22 and 22:15; Prov.
    22:29; and 1 Corinthians 3:5-15) express elements of preparedness and
    in many rich terms: quality works, skills, crafts, workmanship,
    gifts, and talents

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:

  • Competency Engenders Trust—from Kouzes and Posner,
    Credibility, p. 109: Competence is among four characteristics most
    often admired in leaders evidenced in research studies reported by Kouzes
    and Posner in Credibility. (pp 12, 17-18) They assert that leaders
    are capable, productive, efficient—able to get the job done. If they
    want us to enlist voluntarily with them in a common cause and commit to action
    freely, most of us want and admire leaders who are honest, forward-looking,
    inspiring, and competent. About competence, these two researchers
    comment: Demonstrate consistently your commitment to the congregation’s
    mission by your deeds; do not let random efforts substitute for intentional
    performance of kingdom goals.
  • “The fourth most admired leadership attribute is competence.
    If we are to enlist in another’s cause, we must see the person as
    capable and effective. The universal expectation is that the person be able
    to get things done for the business unit. In this sense, having a winning
    track record is the surest way to be considered competent. The type of competence
    that constituents look for seems to vary with the leader’s role.”

    (p. 19.) Research also asserts that
    leaders are expected to have technical competence at the level of their
    constituents, to have required leadership skills for their job, to learn
    the business and to know its current operation.

  • Competence and Trustworthiness: from Principle-Centered
    by Stephen R. Covey, as the first of four levels of principled-centered
  • Level # 1: “Trustworthiness at the personal level is based on
    character, what you are as a person, and competence, what you can do. If
    you have faith in my character but not in my competence, you still wouldn’t
    trust me. Without character and competence we won’t be considered
    trustworthy…Without meaningful ongoing professional development, there
    is little trustworthiness or trust. Trustworthiness is the foundation of
    (p. 31) As an aspect related to competency, Covey’s
    Habit 7 adds elsewhere: “‘Sharpen the saw’ is the
    unique endowment of continuous improvement, self-renewal, innovation and

  • Competency, Integrity, and Ambition: from Learning to
    by Bennis and Goldsmith (see pp. 2-3). These authors present a triad
    of leadership attributes, needing to be in balance like a three-legged stool
    if the leader is to be constructive. A three-way balance among these characteristics
    will enable a leader to be true to a vision beyond self and be able to make
    that vision real. A formidable combination of only two is most often destructive:tand
    by your beliefs and values; others may disagree with you or resist you, but
    you maintain your own self-respect and perhaps theirs.
  • ambition and competence leaves us with a self-serving
    leader who puts personal power above a vision for the good of the whole.

    integrity and ambition without competence can lead to
    a well-meaning leader unable to make anything happen, taking the organization
    down a righteous dead-end.
    competency paired with integrity will often lead to good
    works, but not challenge barriers and open new ground.

  • A Conceptual Model of Leadership Competencies: from Thoughts
    on Leadership
    , by William D. Hitt, pp xii-xxv. Hitt constructs a paradigm,
    a watershed postulate that “the effective leader is a fully functioning
    This conceptual framework is further developed by integrating
    five leadership dimensions and 25 specific leadership competencies into one
    model (framework). Leaders in Christian ministry may find insight from a summary
    of his Leadership Competencies Model
  • Dimension #1 Reasoning—competencies include:
    Conceptual Skills, Logical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Holistic Thinking,
    and Communication
    Dimension #2 Coping—competencies include: People,
    Information, Networks, Excellence, and Integrity
    Dimension #3 Knowing—competencies include: Knowing
    the Job, Knowing the Organization, Knowing the Business One Is In, Knowing
    the World, and Knowing Oneself
    Dimension #4 Believing—competencies include: Visioning,
    Coaching, Motivating, Team Building, and Valuing
    Dimension #5 Being—competencies include: Identity,
    Independence, Authenticity, Responsibility, and Courage

  • Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Competence: from
    Primal Leadership, by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee, pp.39, 249-256.
    The following is a summary of excellent insights that may be adapted to the
    highest levels of Christian leadership. They suggest specific competencies
    for the highest functions and tasks of congregational leadership, and most
    informative for each one of us in the service of Christ:
  • Personal Competence: These capabilities determine
    how we manage ourselves.
    – Emotional self-awareness: reading one’s own emotions and recognizing
    their impact; using “gut sense” to guide decisions
    – Accurate self-assessment: knowing one’s strengths and limits
    – Self-confidence: a sound sense of one’s self-worth and capabilities
    – Emotional self-control: keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under
    – Transparency: displaying honesty and integrity; trustworthiness
    – Adaptability: flexibility in adapting to changing situations or over-coming
    – Achievement: the drive to improve performance to meet inner standards
    of excellence
    – Initiative: readiness to act and seize opportunities
    – Optimism: seeing the upside in events

    Social Competence: These capabilities determine
    how we manage relationships
    Social Awareness
    – Empathy: sensing others’ emotions, understanding their perspective,
    and taking active interest in their concerns
    – Organizational awareness; reading the currents, decision networks, and
    politics at the organizational level
    – Service: recognizing and meeting follower, client, or customer needs
    Relationship Management
    – Inspirational leadership: guiding and motivating with a compelling vision
    – Influence: wielding a range of tactics for persuasion
    – Developing others: bolstering others’ abilities through feedback
    and guidance
    – Change catalyst; initiating, managing, and leading in a new direction
    – Conflict management: resolving disagreements
    – Building bonds: cultivating and maintaining a web of relationships
    – Teamwork and collaboration: cooperation and team building

  • Six New Leadership Competencies: from The Leader’s
    Handbook by Peter R. Scholtes, pp. 16-50. Scholtes, considering that many
    of the current leadership fads are simply not adequate, suggests six new competencies
    which are based on the great legacy of W. E. Deming’s, System of Profound
    Knowledge. Since the congregation is a system, these competencies have application
    to those of us who work in Christian congregations and institutions:
  • 1) The ability to think in terms of systems and knowing how to lead
    2) The ability to understand the variability of work in planning and problem
    3) Understanding how we learn, develop, and improve; and leading true learning
    and improvement.
    4) Understanding people and why they behave as they do.
    5) Understanding the interdependence and interaction between systems, variation,
    learning, and human behavior. Knowing how each affects the others.
    6) Giving vision, meaning, direction, and focus to the organization.

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
(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:

  • The congregation and its members must be informed,
    positive, and supportive in the development and implementation of a competence-based
    training program.
  • Specific tasks and jobs to be performed in each function
    of the congregation’s mission and strategies are to be carefully selected
    and described.
  • Job related competencies to be achieved are carefully
    identified, verified and made known to individuals and teams of ministers/leaders.
  • Criteria to be used in assessing standards of expected
    performance and achievement will be made known to the congregation and it’s
  • The CBT instructional program and materials provide
    essential knowledge and skill practice for individual development and assessment
    of each competence specified.
  • Assessment of competency considers the participant’s
    attitude and knowledge, but requires actual performance as the primary evidence
    of mastering a competency.
  • Participants progress through the training program
    at their own pace by actually demonstrating the attainment of the competency.

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

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
____ 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.

    Mark 6:3 “Where did this
    man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom
    that has been given him that he even does miracles? Isn’t this the
    7:37 People
    were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,”
    they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

    In the NT the word translated “carpenter” refers to an honored
    trade of Jesus’ day, a craftsman capable of working with wood, stone,
    and metals. Jesus gave evidence of competence, not only with His wisdom
    in teaching and His power for miraculous signs, but also in the technical
    craft of carpentry. He knew how to use skillfully the tools of His trade.
    These two verses demonstrate the diversity of tasks, the task-specific nature
    of competence, and the necessity of physical and technical skills. Verse
    7:37 reports the assessment of those around Jesus, “He does all
    things well.”
    This could mean good, better, beautiful, commendable,
    excellent, honest, honorable, and right
    . (See also the “well
    ” of Mt. 25:21-23)

____ 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.

    “Competence gives the leader credibility. How can a leader lead
    if there is no understanding of the overall purpose? . . . A person of competence
    values and delights in watching others grow. A competent leader is always
    learning and growing.”
    –Ellen Castro, 52 Ways, p.

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.

  • Luke 19:17“‘Well
    done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy
    in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’”

  • A Leader’s Consistent Position–Bennis and Goldman,
    Learning to Lead, p 120: “We tend to trust leaders when we
    know where they stand in relation to the organization and how they position
    the organization relative to the environment. We understand how our leaders’
    positions evolved and know that they are willing to reconsider them in the
    face of new evidence.”
  • Yes, competence as a church business administrator is one marvelous
    way for “Pickin’ Your Tune–Writing a New Song.”

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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.