Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Transparency in ministry

One of the quickest ways to undermine your ministry is for people to begin thinking you are doing things behind their backs. I understand that some churches are very risk-adverse, but if the pastor begins to implement changes without the congregation's permission or even being aware that changes are coming he or she may find their ministry in that church to be very short-term.

Transparency is critical, especially in a smaller church or in one in which there has been a lack of transparency in the past. I have worked with enough churches in which there was little trust in the leadership to know how important it is that leaders be upfront with their congregations. Communication is key.

In one church the pastor wanted to do something that could have been controversial. After discussing it with the appropriate leadership group he presented it to other groups within the church. Even he was surprised how little controversy the proposal generated. While there were some questions, in general it was very well received, and the pastor was able to move forward with his idea.

Contrast that to another pastor who decided that it was easier to get forgiveness than permission so he went ahead and made a significant change without discussing it with anyone. What he learned was that getting forgiveness wasn't a given either, especially since he had done such things previously. The church had become tired of him going around the various leadership groups in the church and doing whatever he wanted to do. Although he would have probably eventually been given permission to do what he wanted, he didn't want to wait and proceeded without congregational approval. This final action damaged whatever trust that existed in this church for his leadership, and he soon had to leave the church. A friend of this pastor and one of his strong supporters in the church later told me that he could have served that church for many years if he had been willing to be patient and work with the leadership groups within the congregation.

Such transparency is important in all size churches, but it is critical in smaller churches. These churches often have a revolving-door pastorate as many ministers view these churches as stepping stones to a larger ministry. As a result, these churches have learned to depend primarily on their lay leadership. They can be very concerned if they believe that their pastors are bypassing these lay leaders. These churches often have a great deal of confidence in their lay leaders; they seldom have the same level of trust in their pastoral leadership because these individuals do not stay long enough to earn that level of trust.

The quickest way for a pastor of a smaller church to earn the trust of the church is to be extremely transparent, especially when introducing any type of change to the church. Over-communicate to ensure transparency. Make sure that no one is surprised when you begin something different or want to change something within the church.

Almost no one will become upset if you include them in your thinking process as you consider the ministry of the church you serve. In fact, most people will be honored that you thought enough of them that you sought their input. You will find that you will enjoy a much more productive ministry in the long run if you practice transparency in every aspect of your ministry.

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