2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for all of us. It has revealed gaps in our character, distrust in God, and anxiety of the unknown. I have noticed that my staff and I have all operated at a high level of stress throughout the year. 2020 has brought on emotional stress from both the uncertainty of this virus and the economic uncertainties therein. We’ve seen marital stress, church stress, Zoom fatigue, loneliness, the list goes on and on.
Through it all I’ve been able to hear people’s stories and experience their fears. The proximity to other people’s “realities” has helped me be more empathetic to their situations. I have realized that we are all carrying something with us everywhere we go.
Understanding that we all come into each situation with a lot of weight from the world we live in helps us create a culture of trust.
I want to suggest to you a few simple, yet profound, ways to create a culture of trust that will change your team and permeate through your organization if you implement them.
1: Give the benefit of the doubt: We live in a culture that is consistently triggered by our feelings. We write each others stories and create scenarios that aren’t usually true. The first step to creating a healthy culture is to always give the benefit of the doubt. The way I do this is to rehearse in my mind this thought, “I know you said this but I don’t think that’s actually what you meant” — or — “Why did I receive what they said that way? I don’t think that is what they meant.” Saying this to myself has helped me not think the worst of people.
2: Have each other’s back: Obviously we aren’t always going to agree with the decision someone on our team makes, that’s beside the point. We need to always have one another’s back. On our team we allow for open dialog around decisions that are made but once the decision is made we are a unified front. We believe in team. We believe that our team sets the pace for our entire church by enjoying one another, loving one another, and always having each other’s back.
Having each other’s back goes hand and hand with giving the benefit of the doubt. Many major organizational issues could be squashed if staff took the time to stop gossip. One of the ways we do this is by communicating that our team is for each other. We’ve trained our staff to step in for each other when someone questions another person and say something like, “I know their hearts and I am pretty sure they didn’t make that decision because of ______.”
The other way we have each other’s back is by filling in the gaps for each other. If we are low on volunteers we jump in and serve together. We want excellence not perfection and we strive to help each other accomplish our goals. The way this is possible is by viewing each other as teammates who serve together not subordinates who work underneath you. Jesus tells us to be servants of all and we want to emulate his posture in how we serve one another. As we do this we set the pace for the entire organization.
3: Assume the best: This means we decide (keyword) to assume that the decisions that are made are made for a good reason. Oftentimes we wouldn’t make the same decision that someone else makes but it’s important that we don’t attribute ill will to their decision. Great culture is created when we assume the person making a decision is smart and they made their decision for the best of the entire organization.
4: Be happy: Yes, I know that isn’t a revolutionary thought but it’s a game changer. Sometimes we need to pause and choose that we are going to be happy. Maybe it’s stopping before walking into a “war zone” at home after a long day of work. Take a few minutes and practice thankfulness before walking in the door. Remind yourself of the blessing of your marriage and how much you love your kids. We tell our staff to have the same posture on Sunday mornings as we arrive at church. We don’t “have to” work at City Church, we “get to” work at City Church. Check yourself before entering a situation and choose to be happy; it makes all the difference.
5: Always put “we” before “me”: When you see the organization as bigger than you, you create a culture of trust. Let me say it this way: City Church isn’t my church it’s our church. This isn’t about me…. Shifting my mentality this way allows me to be sacrificial and kind. I don’t have to always get my way when it’s not about me.
2020 has done a lot of things in our lives and I’d be the first to admit that I am ready for it all to be over. However, I don’t want to miss the lessons in the desert that God is teaching me. Sometimes I feel like 2020 is like noticing a plant in the middle of the desert. If that plant were in the garden I don’t know if I’d pause in thankfulness for it, but because it’s in the desert I take notice.
This year has helped me take notice of the joy around me. It’s allowed me to be thankful for my team and my church. To enjoy my family and remember that nothing is forever. As Tim Keller said, “I don’t want to go back to the way things were before because I didn’t depend on God then.” I want to enjoy the little things and take note of the plant in the desert.
Let’s build a culture that enjoys one another and takes the time to pause and be grateful that God brought us together.