The Difference Between Making a Mistake and Breaking Trust

(Unsplash/ Abigail Keenan)

Leaders fail when they accuse someone of breaking trust when all the person did was make an honest mistake. It's demoralizing for the accused.

Leaders also fail when they dismiss betrayal, thinking the betrayer was simply mistaken. That's dangerous for the leader.

I've made mistakes as a leader. One in particular stands out. The prefilled peel-and-partake Communion cups were a mistake. I thought they would make the Lord's Supper process more efficient. Apparently, no one cares about efficiency in worship when the Communion cups randomly explode after being exposed to freezing weather during the shipping process. After a few years, I can laugh about it. No one laughed then.

Leaders make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes occur for many reasons: laziness, stubbornness, misinformation, miscalculations or ineptitude. Even the most competent of people, however, make honest mistakes, like when Communion cups become grape juice grenades.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Making a mistake is different than breaking trust—qualitatively different. Breaking trust is never appropriate. Breaking trust is a form of betrayal. It's one thing for Communion cups to explode. It's another thing to work behind the scenes to undermine or deceive a friend. The mistake stains clothes. The betrayal stains a soul.

Your team will make mistakes. You should expect others to make mistakes. In fact, you should give your team the freedom to make mistakes. But you should also maintain zero tolerance for a betrayal of trust. As a church leader, how can you tell the difference between a mistake and betrayal?

—Ask before jumping to conclusions. If you believe someone has made a major mistake that could rise to the level of breaking trust, then your first step is to talk to the individual. Too often leaders jump to conclusions without hearing the other side. Too often this leap is due to the leader's own insecurities.

—Don't microanalyze every mistake. If insecure leaders jump to conclusions, overbearing leaders will microanalyze everyone's mistakes. When someone on your team makes an honest mistake, move on. Good team members will learn from their own mistakes. Splitting hairs creates splitting headaches.

—Don't project past offenses on others. Someone from your past betrayed you. Just because another person has a similar personality doesn't mean he or she will betray you too. You should not project someone's past offenses on another person.

—Look for a pattern. A few mistakes every now and then is normal. Making the same mistake multiple times after multiple warnings is a pattern you cannot ignore.

—Consider the intent. When someone breaks your trust, intent exists. When someone makes a mistake, they don't intend to do so.

—Consider the whole of a person. No one wants to be judged by an isolated mistake. Even in the case of something substantial, consider the entirety of a person. All people make mistakes. In fact, all people have sin. As a leader, you must look at all of who a person is, not just who they are in a bad moment.

Mistakes are inevitable. Leading change and taking risks will produce mistakes. Indeed, you can't move forward without incurring some mistakes. Your team will make mistakes too. Just don't mistake them for breaking trust.

Sam Rainer serves as the president of Church Answers. He is also the lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church and the co-host of the Est.Church podcast. Sam co-founded Rainer Publishing and serves as the president of Revitalize Network. He has a wonderful wife, four fun children, a smart old dog, a dumb young dog and a cat his daughters insisted on keeping.

For the original article, visit

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

Dr. Mark Rutland's

National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)

The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!

FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.

Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.

The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.

Charisma Leader — Serving and empowering church leaders