Interpersonal Leadership: Trust-Building
“Encouragement: Courage
to Lead by Caring”

By Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack®
Vol. 7.2 – Trust-Building

1. Encouragement: Opening Reflection
and Meanings

  • Acts 4:36-37– “Joseph,
    a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of
    Encouragement) sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the
    apostles’ feet.”

    I’ve been reflecting on the Barnabas text for myself in my context.
    What if my congregation started a “Barnabas Club;” would the
    members be inclined to urge me to join and even give me a new nick-name
    to go with it?” That is, do I consistently encourage or give care
    to others in such a way that they are blessed and tend to take up the role
    of encourager to still others? Do I use my words, presence, resources and
    influence to meet the needs of others? Barnabas did. He cared enough to
    offer practical encouragement to others, principally to the poor and disadvantaged,
    that the 1st century family of faith nicknamed him “son of consolation”
    and found him trustworthy as a spiritual leader. This “Barnabas Club”
    is a way for me to face myself with the question, “Do I lead by
    caring; do I provide, support, inspiration and encouragement to others?”

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11– “Therefore
    encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

    Over the past three decades, I have enjoyed the opportunity as supply preacher
    or interim pastor in scores of churches. I have taken that responsibility
    seriously and tried to bring encouragement and challenge from the pulpit
    or in Bible study or key leadership groups. I have often become an “exhorting
    Elder” from this word of Paul to the Thessalonian congregation, in
    words such as these:

    During this season when you are without a known and trusted pastor
    in the pulpit, against all prevailing tendencies and forces rise up to
    be the church of the living Christ in this place:

    • Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact
      you are doing.
    • Be at your very best in your place in the midst of this very
      special congregation.
    • Give personal attention to the mission of Christ for His church,
      for indeed it belongs to you.
    • Stand your watch on the wall; it’s your watch to protect
      the well-being of the congregation.
    • Take care of each other, your hopes, struggles, and needs; let
      no one feel as an orphan.
    • Do the work of Christ faithfully: sing, teach, minister, and
      evangelize those seeking the Lord.
    • Support the congregation’s practical and spiritual life:
      pray, lift, love, attend, give, go, bring others.
    • Pray for that good day when a pastor comes into your midst to
      love and lead you and finds you to be a strong, caring and faithful

    So, by words and behavior, stories and example, instruction and exhortation
    I attempt to give encouragement, to be an “encourager” for a
    day or for a season.

  • Encouragement as a Test of a Servant Leader: I often find
    myself reflecting on the concept of servant leadership advocated by its most
    eminent modern proponent, Robert K. Greenleaf. Is not trust-building one of
    the primary components of servant leadership? Greenleaf’s stated concept
    seems to be a worthy test of what it means to build trusted leadership through

    The servant-leader is servant first—to make sure that other
    people’s highest priority needs are being served. . . . The best
    test, and difficult to administer is: Do those served
    grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser,
    freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And,
    what is the effect on the least privileged in society; will they benefit,
    or, at least, not be further deprived?
    (Servant Leadership,

  • Meanings Today for Terms of Encouragement: There are several
    words that we use to express elements of encouragement. From several resources,
    let’s revisit our usage of related terms:

    • Courage (noun): the state of mind or condition of being brave,
      bold, even fearless; to act upon or stand for your convictions; to be
      steadfast in the face of pain, difficulty, or danger.
    • Encourage (verb): to inspire with courage, to give spirit
      or hope, to hearten; to spur on; to stimulate; to foster or give, help,
      support, or patronage.
    • Encouragement (noun): the act of encouraging or the state
      of being encouraged; the expression of approval and support; the act of
      giving hope or support to another; acts or words of praise, support, comfort,
      endorsement, even challenge or exhortation.
    • Caring (verbal form): to be concerned about another person,
      to be thoughtful, to make provision for another; to wish or desire the
      best for another; to be watchful or be responsible for, to attend to the
      matters of another, sometimes at the cost or trouble of the one who cares.
    • Hope (noun): a belief that something desired will in fact happen
      or be obtained; a desire that something cherished with anticipation will
      occur; an expectation with some confidence that some good will occur,
      such as one “hopes for a promotion.” Hope is often held out
      by another person by word, deed, or behavior; a by-product of trust.
    • Inspiring (verbal form): to fill with an animating, quickening,
      or exalting influence; “His courage inspired his followers.”–to
      produce or arouse, to inspire confidence in others: “She inspired
      me to take up the Room in the Inn ministry.”–to guide, control,
      or communicate as by a divine influence: hymns that inspire the congregation
      to worship: “The sermon lifted my spirit from discouragement to
      a new hope.”

2. Courage and Encouragement: A Biblical Viewpoint

Please note: The following comments are adapted with permission from the Zondervan
; they introduce the central thrust of the New Testament message.
Reflection and Application are offered to encourage you to
pull that message into your space and ministry role. How do you respond to this
central understanding of the active role of encouraging among the members of
a congregation? Let’s start with a thesis text from the earliest recorded

  • A key text: “Therefore
    encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

    –1 Thessalonians 5:11

    With such a guarantee, the Thessalonians are now equipped to “encourage
    one another and build each other up.” As in 4:18, parakaleite
    (“encourage”) has more a consolatory than a hortatory meaning.
    Here is an unconditional pledge to strengthen even the weakest in faith. It
    can also build up another Christian. Oikodomeite (“build …
    up”) was later to become one of Paul’s favorite ways of writing about
    growth in the church (Eph 2:20-22; 4:12). Paul is quick to acknowledge progress
    along this line: “just as in fact you are doing.” Yet he also
    looks forward to even greater attainments (cf. 4:1).

  • Encouragement, Comfort in the New Testament

    • The NT terms “tharreo” and “tharseo
      most directly mean to be of good courage, to take heart. In the NT the
      form tharseo appears 3 times in Matt. and Mk., and once each
      in Jn. and Acts; tharreo occurs 5 times in 2 Cor. and in Heb.
      13:6. To be courageous means to take heart, (in the KJV “to be of
      good cheer”) to be of good courage, used today in much the same
    • In Mk. 10:49 the companions of blind Bartimaeus address him with the
      expression, tharsei, take heart. He may take heart because Jesus
      is calling him and offering him help. Elsewhere the imperative is found
      only in the mouth of Jesus.
    • In Matt. 9:2 the paralytic whose sin Jesus forgives is to be of good
      cheer, as is the woman with an issue of blood whom he heals (Matt. 9:22;
      cf. Lk. 8:48 v.1).
    • In Matt. 14:27, when the disciples are frightened by his appearance
      on the lake, the word of comfort is strengthened by the addition of me
      phobeisthe, “fear not.”
    • In John 16:33, in His farewell discourses of the Fourth Gospel, Jesus
      commands the disciples, whom He is leaving behind in a world full of tribulation:
      “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (KJV Jn. 16:33).
      In Acts 23:11 a similar word of comfort is given by the risen Lord to
      the apostle in prison.
    • In 2 Cor. 7:16 Paul uses the word tharro to express the confidence
      which he has in the Corinthian church. But in 10:1-2, the same word is
      used of the boldness with which he is determined to face those who oppose
      him in Corinth (openness).
  • Other New Testament Terms and Texts

    The NT uses other terms to present the rich meaning of the kindred words,
    courage and encouragement, translated as: encourage, cheer
    up, console; encouragement, comfort, consolation; and encouragement, consolation,
    alleviation. Examples include:

    • The first example of the use in early Christian literature is in 1
      Thess. 2:12, where it is used, as at 5:14, in conjunction with parakalein,
      to exhort (cf. also v. 3). Paul reminds his readers (“for you know,”
      v. 11) that when he visited Thessalonica (v. 1), he exhorted and encouraged
      them. He also indicates the content of this encouragement in the words:
      “to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom
      and glory” (v. 12). Paul undertook the task of encouraging the people
      in this way with complete devotion (“Like a father with his children,”
      v. 11) and person to person (“each one of you,” v. 11). In
      1 Thess. 5:14 the apostle urges the brethren (i.e. the whole church and
      not just their leaders) in Thessalonica, to encourage the faint-hearted.
    • The second example is that encouragement is an expression of love. Together
      with participation in the Spirit and heartfelt sympathy, it forms one
      of the foundations of church life as lived out in the sphere of Christ
      (Phil. 2:1). This applies also to the special circumstances at Corinth.
      There it is the prophets (or more exactly, those who exercise the gift
      of prophecy) who build up, encourage and console the church. “He
      who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding [oikodomen]
      and encouragement [paraklesin] and consolation (paramythian)”
      (1 Cor. 14:3 f.).
    • Courage, boldness, the verb, tolmao, means to be brave, risk,
      dare; and another form, tolmeros, means confident, bold, audacious.
      Expressed is a basic sense of doing or bearing that which is fearful or
      difficult with patience, submissiveness, courage, and daring, or bravery–even
      rash or foolhardy. Moral and physical courage are both involved in Matt.
      22:46, meaning combining both “did not have the face to” and
      “did not have the gall to.” It has the strongest sense of
      “putting oneself at risk” in Rom. 5:7, and a weak but similar
      sense in Rom. 15:18; 2 Cor.10:12; 11:21, where it is little more than
      a conventional politeness: “to venture to.” (See also Rom.
      12:8; Rom. 15:4-6; Heb. 10:25; Heb. 12:5.)

3. Encouragement as Caring, Trust-Building

Another way to learn how to lead through encouragement is to look at encouragement
through the skin and skill of several contemporary researchers and practitioners.
Reflecting on the concepts of these leaders may help you, both to understand
and consistently practice encouragement:

  • Best Leaders Practice Encouraging the Heart
    (from James Kouzes and Barry Posner, The Leadership Challenge, pp.
    According to the extensive research of Kouzes and Posner, “the leadership
    challenge” is best defined as leaders at their best pursuing five key
    practices expressed through ten commitments. The fifth such major practice,
    “encouraging the heart,” is developed in two commitments: 1) recognize
    contributions: linking rewards with performance and 2) celebrate accomplishments:
    valuing the victories. Selected examples of such encouragement are summarized
    here as they relate to encouragement:

    • Leaders at their best encourage the heart of their followers to
      carry on, even though the work is long and hard. Getting extraordinary
      things done in organizations is hard work. The climb to the summit is
      arduous and steep. Leaders encourage others to continue the quest. They
      inspire others with courage and hope. (p. 239)
    • The word “encouragement” has its root in the Latin “cor”
      meaning “heart.” When leaders encourage others, through recognition
      and celebration, they inspire them with courage—with heart. When
      we encourage others, we give them heart. And when we give heart to others,
      we give love. (p. 270)
    • Leaders give heart by visibly recognizing people’s contribution
      to the common vision. (p. 239)
    • Best leaders express pride in the accomplishments of their team
      members. (p. 239)
    • Leaders in their own way are cheerleaders with content and substance;
      they find ways to celebrate team accomplishments. (pp. 239, 271-272)
    • The leader is sustained with courage by staying in love: love of
      people who do the work, with what they produce, and with the customers
      they serve. (p. 239)
    • Successful leaders have high expectations, both of themselves and
      of their followers, a powerful force into which people fit their new reality.
      (p. 242)
    • Best leaders create social networks and support for people on their
      team and for their own personal worth-while-ness; such supporting networks
      will also serve the authentic needs for organization accomplishments.
      (p. 273)
  • Trust as Emotional Strength Expressing Encouragement
    (from –Robert K. Cooper, The Other 90%: How to unlock Your Vast Untapped
    Potential for Leadership and Life
    , p.47)
  • Trust is an emotional strength that begins with a feeling of self-worth
    and purpose that we’re called to extend outward to others. The warm,
    solid gut feeling you get from trust— from counting on yourself and
    trusting and being trusted by others—is one of the great enablers
    of life. . . . We trust others when two crucial qualities are present in
    the relationship. First, we must feel that they understand us: that they
    know who we really are and what really matters to us. Second, we must feel
    that they care about us, and that they will weigh our true needs, interests,
    and concerns when they make decisions.

  • Courage, Resolution and Steadiness as Attributions of Leadership

    (from John Gardner, On Leadership, pp.51-51) Ability to stay the course:
  • Clearly a leader needs courage—not just bravery of the moment
    but courage over time, not just willingness to risk, but to risk again and
    again, to function well under prolonged stress, to survive defeat and keep
    going. . . . “They never give up.” It is not possible to overstate
    the value of steadiness in leadership. Individuals and groups who wish to
    align themselves with a leader find it hard to do so if the leader shifts
    position erratically.

  • Elements of Trust as Practices of Encouragement
    (from David W. Johnson, Researching Out, p. 85, 89; also see the glossary)
    of this college social psychology text:
    • Trust: perception that a choice can lead to gains or losses,
      that whether you will gain or lose depends on the behavior of the other
      person, and that the person will likely behave so that you will gain rather
      than lose.
    • Openness: sharing information, ideas, thoughts, feeling, and
      reactions to an issue.
    • Sharing: offering your materials and resources to others to
      help them obtain their goals.
    • Acceptance: the communication of high regard for another person
      and his contributions and statements to a joint effort.
    • Support: communication that you recognize another person’s
      strengths and believe she is capable to handle a situation or task.
    • Cooperative intentions: the expectation that you and the other
      person will help each other.
    • Trustworthiness: expressing acceptance, support, and cooperative
  • Components of Supportiveness that Build Trust
    (from Dale E. Zand, The Leadership Triad, p. 116)
  • “Effective leaders understand and employ three components of
    supportiveness that build trust: acceptance, tolerance for disagreement,
    and constructive use of people’s openness. People trust leaders who
    accept them as they are.

  • Caring Leads to Moral Leadership
    (from Leonard O. Pellicer, Caring Enough to Lead (3rd Ed.)

    “It’s better to know some of the questions than all
    the answers.” That is Pellicer’s claim in the first chapter,
    followed by questions, such as: what is a leader? why should leaders care
    about caring? what do I care about? and, can I care enough to do the little
    things? Although his lessons were originally developed for teachers in
    the classroom, they have significant weight for those of us in the congregational
    ministry of Christ. Through questions, stories, good humor, and illustrations,
    Pellicer examines what it means to be an effective, caring leader who
    develops meaningful bonds with staff members to establish common core
    values. . . . [He] demonstrates the relationship between
    caring leadership and moral and ethical choices and expands on the power
    of caring leadership to transform schools.

4. Ministry Reflections, Practices,
and Trust-Building Actions:

Encouragement most often takes place in small, continuous, and consistent
ways. From a review of best practices discovered and reported by students of
leadership, and from my own years of experience, observation, and misadventure,
I want to share selected ministry practices that make a difference in a leadership
that cares. You may also want to add to the collection, assess your practices,
or plan your actions toward encouragement that builds trust.

___ Courage: Living your life with courage is an essential
component of encouraging others. “Encourage their hearts.” There
are times to be confident, brave, outspoken. It takes courage to be steadfast,
to stand the test of time. “Be a believer” in the midst of the
congregation and with team leaders. “With God’s help, we can do
this together.”

___ Friendship: Develop and sustain friendship with members
and co-workers; to make friends, you must be a friend by affirmation, by knowing
names, likes, dislikes, hopes and hurts, what matters and what is just fun.
Mutual friendship is based on trustworthiness, openness, trust, respect, and

___ Storytelling: Tell your own real stories, and listen
to those of others. Through storytelling, you are showing mutual openness
and interest; enjoying presence by listening, laughing and crying together;
nurturing and passing on shared heritage; and learning the lessons of the
past and current experiences.

___ Caring: Really care for people; stand alongside to
comfort and console: to share, support, help in time of need. Look out for
them and their best interest; guard against destructive confrontation and
competition. Create a healthy atmosphere. Make the church-place a healing
place in times of disappointment, struggles, and grief.

___ Hope: “Sustain hope” in the progress, direction,
and future of the congregation. Hope is a state of being lived out in consistent
acts. Keep hope alive even when things are not going well in the work of the

___ Inspiration: Inspire others, by example and practices,
even when things are difficult. Serve others as a “cheerleader.”
Be positive, optimistic and enthusiastic about mutual goals and tasks. Attempt
the difficult task, claim the opportunity.

___ Challenge: “Exhortation” is one of the
biblical meanings of encouragement. It involves instruction and vision, and
call to action. Announce, “This is our time to discover new horizons,
improved methods, enlarged resources, and new beginnings.”

___ Empowerment: Share mutual goals and efforts toward achievement.
Involve others in decisions, efforts, responsibility, and accountability.
Encourage creativity for others to achieve their goals; allow for risks and

___ Team-building: Practice cooperative intentions: choose
the right people for your team; be explicit about assignment and expectations;
build enduring connections within the congregation. Casey Stengel is quoted:
“It’s easy to get good players. Gettin’ ‘em to
play together, that’s the hard part.”
Also, encourage by
reducing destructive confrontation or competition.

___ Recognition and reward: “Make heroes of other
people.” Build a positive reward system including acceptance, appreciation,
award, and celebration. Communicate a positive sense of achievement and well-being.
Ellen Castro writes: “Build trust by honoring others–because it
is the right thing to do as well as a sound business practice; it creates
a greater sense of self-worth.”
–from 52 Ways, p. 42

5. “Encouragement and Trust in
the Workplace”

(Adapted from SkillTrack Volume 7.2: Trust-Building:
The Leadership Essential
, 2003 (pp 47-48), A Study Abstract by Lloyd
Elder from the Electric Library: Public Personnel Management: “Trust in
Employee/Employer Relationships: A Survey of West Michigan Managers.”
The benefit of this abstract is to support the thesis that encouragement and
support of other people is a key and integrated component of trust-building.
Acts of encouragement have their own place in trust-building; but they are also
like strands of fibers in the whole of a valued fabric. The survey reported
here sought to measure the place of trust in employer/employee relationships.

Reflections and Lessons: When you read the full research
survey, or even this abstract, you may readily concur that the elements of
trust expected in the workplace should be that much more experienced within
a congregation. As Christian ministers, let your reflection wander over spiritual
and practical lessons, such as:

  • We minister to constituents that live most of their waking hours in the
    workplace, such as those surveyed, or at least in comparable roles.
  • A substantial understanding of expectations and values in the workplace
    could make more effective our ministry to people.
  • The significant findings of this survey have many valuable applications
    to your congregation’s ministry, structure, and relationships.
  • Making your own assessment may enhance your service to current members;
    also inform you of more authentic and effective ways to reach out to your
  • The congregation must give attention to receiving new members, but should
    also consider the essentials of satisfaction and retention of the ones now
    in its family of faith.

Process and Findings: Now, let’s look at the process
and the findings of this survey effort; I have added reflections along the
ways. A survey instrument was sent to the vice president of Human Resources
of 426 companies employing more than 50 employees in six contiguous Michigan
counties. Of the 426 company officers, 376 received the instrument; 143 responded,
representing a statistically significant return of 38.03%. Summary of survey

    1. Trust is the essential ingredient, the core of all human relationships.
      It holds people together and gives them a feeling of security. Trust is
      a fragile thing; it is generally earned and grows at a painfully slow pace;
      but it can be destroyed in an instant.
    2. Respondents view trust as a belief in the integrity, character, and ability
      of others (93.5%); followed by the perception that trust is a feeling of
      confidence and support shown (91.2%).
    3. Four major factors breed trust or determine the level of trust in the
      workplace: (1) open communication (96.4%); (2) greater share in decision-making
      (90.4%); (3) sharing critical information (87.5%); and (4) true sharing
      of perceptions and feelings (85.4%).
    4. Leadership is primarily responsible for building trust; it “trickles
      down” into the whole organization. If trust is misused by the leaders
      toward employees, it will also be by employees toward one another and toward
    5. Six main advantages of trust in the workplace are clearly discerned and
      strongly supported: (1) improved communication; (2) greater predictability,
      dependability, and confidence; (3) a reduction of turnover; (4) openness,
      willingness to accept criticism non-defensively; (5) repeat business; and
      (6) reduction of friction.
    6. An organization’s ineffectiveness is largely the result of distrust,
      losing out on the advantages listed above. However, a climate of trust (1)
      leads to more trust (96.3%); (2) brings credibility (96.2%); and (3) leads
      to effective decisions (91.8%).
    7. The primary disadvantage of building a climate of trust is the fear of
      those in company management positions of losing managerial authority.
    8. It may be surprising that trust is not a function of any one popular
      style of leadership or management; but there is a reciprocal relationship
      between communication and trust.
    9. A basic formula may be crafted for Good/Lasting Relationships as GR=TXCXP:
      Good Relationships = Trust x Open Communications x Perception (of true feelings).
      If any one of the three factors is missing, the true result is zero (1x1x0=0),
      trust and its benefits are lost to the employees, management, and the organization.

For Your Reflection and Application: What are the major
values of this survey to Christian ministers who want to know, understand,
and respond to members in the congregation?

  • To increase your understanding of the workplace of your members.
  • To understand how your members may want to function within the congregation.
  • To provide clues toward a congregational strategy for trust-building.
  • To glean specific ways to nurture encouragement and support within the

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