One of the most memorable lessons in ministry I was ever taught came from a conference I attended where Leith Anderson spoke about poker chips. This wasn’t the illustration that I was expecting to hear at a meeting full of ministers, but it was brilliant and I have tried to minister by it since I learned the lesson from Dr. Anderson.
Leith said that whether a minister realizes it or not each minister has an account of “”chips” that determines whether or not the people in the church will trust and follow him/her. Those chips are given by the parishioner and earned by the minister’s actions.
Wear a nice suit during your introduction to the church, earn a chip. Preach a great message during your first weekend as a minister at the church, earn three chips. Preach a good message when a parishioner invites a friend to church and the friend brags about the message, earn five chips. Preach a bad message that goes long on top of being bad, lose seven chips. Forget to visit someone’s great Aunt Gerdie when her dog is sick, lose five chips. Visit Aunt Gerdi when you are sick and everyone thinks you should be in bed, earn ten chips. Visit her on your birthday and earn twenty chips.
The point is that all these small events are adding or subtracting “chips” to the trust account of a minister. Over lots of time and lots of small events and trustworthy moments a minister build up a substantial account of chips and that equals a substantial amount of trust. You get to make big changes and survive big mistakes when you have built up a lot of trust.
Unfortunately, many ministers want to make the big change without ever spending the time building up the chips in their account to enable people to trust them with the change. Then when things go wrong they often blame the church, rather than considering if they had built up enough chips to make such a big change. After all, Jesus told us to “count the costs” (Luke 14:28). You need to consider if you have the resources to finish the change that you are leading the church through. If you don’t have the resources of trust then spend time building them up before you start that big project. Sometimes parishioners think “You’ve never had a conversation with me longer than 30 seconds, why should I trust you when you say we are going to make big changes in the church?” Build up your chip account and that opinion very well may change.
One of the other things that Dr. Anderson said concerning these trust chips that really struck me is that the best ministers learn that they receive a greater number of chips if they learn to give away their initial chips. What does this mean? Here’s an example.
“Pastor, I really appreciated the Tenebrae service. It was very meaningful.”
“Thanks, I appreciate you saying that. You know George & Brenda really brought the whole thing together. They put a lot of work into the evening to make sure people connected with God. Could you tell them how much the night meant to them?”
See that is sharing the chips, also known as directing credit to other people. When a minister makes sure and points to others, that is a chip multiplier. It shows parishioners that the minister isn’t just going to bogart all the attention and credit for him/herself. I’ve known a few people who you had to watch out for, because they were not only trying to selfishly make sure all the credit was directed toward themselves but they might also try to steal your trust chips for themselves if they could. I learned very quickly to guard my chips when I was around them.
Anyhow you can, and should, read Leith Anderson do a much better job of discussing this HERE.