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Identifying Your Church’s Disclosure Culture (part 2 of Disclosure v Discovery)

Last week’s post appealed for us to all to disclose rather than be discovered. As discovery of certain issues in one’s life (particularly church leaders) really limits the positive outcomes in a church context.

For the notable national Christian leaders who have been “discovered” in the last couple years for their sinful ways, I wonder how the outcomes could have been different if they would have disclosed (before the sin patterns progressed)?

While sin and the evil one are powerful persuaders for nondisclosure, I also wonder if there was something in the churches they served that implicitly or even explicitly said, “If you disclose…you’re gone…so conceal well”?

Most of us as church leaders don’t want to have hard conversations. So, we often turn a blind eye and keep from investigating the stuff we sense is off in one’s life. In these cases, we’re simply delaying the inevitable and becoming (somewhat) complicit in allowing a person’s life to being disqualified from serving in ministry.

Culture check-up

How you respond to these questions will likely correlate with the likelihood of staff ministers disclosing something before it’s too far gone to rescue them or without collateral damage to the church…

Do you have built in accountability systems?

Is there a systematic time for a supervisor to ask questions about their life? Spiritual health? Their struggles? Can staff expect someone will be inquiring about their soul? About their time with God? About their marriage and friendships?

Are you intentionally investing in holistic care?

Many of us are intentional about developing skills related to our team’s ministry work (presentational skills, time management, relational skills, continuing education), but how are you equipping them to become more like Jesus?

Minister haven’t arrived spiritually; they too need development.

Do you provide resources? Do you encourage and provide time for them to be a participant in a group or Bible study? Do you encourage spiritual retreat days? Sabbaticals? Development of ministers should include equipping and expecting them to grow like Christ. If you think your ministers should be beyond needing your church to make sure they’re growing toward Christ, then I believe you’ll ultimately be disappointed.

Do you have a history of handling these hard issues well?

When people have made mistakes (sinful or just errors)—how has your team seen you handle the mistakes? Would they say your response was holy? Could they tell you sought out Biblical and Holy Spirit guidance before responding? Did they see you keep your mouth shut when others were begging for gossip? Did the see you restore people to ministry roles when the situation allowed for it? Did they see you care for the person even if you had to end their employment?

Has your staff ever heard your pastor or key leader admit mistakes? A sin?

If fulfilling James 5:16 sounds completely aspirational and never modeled within your church, then disclosure from others will be minimal. I get it…the pastor confessing sin to other staff could be problematic. But do staff know the pastor does have a person(s) where James 5:16 happens? Does everyone have accountability? If there’s no transparency, it’s a breeding ground for concealment. And at some point, discovery.

We want or churches to be healthy. This means our church’s leaders need to be healthy. Their health will be aided by a healthy church and leadership culture (A great book on this is Paul Tripp’s Lead).

Let’s shepherd all of our church, including its leaders.

p.s. I’m not a counselor. But I am a pastor. And if you need to disclose something without any strings attached or without me being connected to your church, I’m willing to listen. Sin thrives in darkness and concealment, so if I can serve you, reach out (

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Disclosure v. Discovery

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Habitual sin? A one-time gross misjudgment? An addiction?

Disclosure is better than discovery.

Is that mindset a part of your church’s leadership culture?

At some point in my ministry career I began to have the conversation with prospective staff ministers about errors they may make or systematic sins they might be concealing. And on behalf of the church, I’d remark something like…

When you disclose it (said issue) to us versus us discovering it, the road to you remaining with us on staff and helping you is much easier. Either way, we will graceful, but grace abounds more in disclosure rather than our discovery.

I’d go on to make comments such as-

  • If we know about it and know before it’s gone too far, the possibility of right-standing is greater
  • Even with disclosure, I cannot guarantee you’d keep your job, as there are several factors. But you have my personal commitment to walk alongside you and get you the help needed
  • While discovery on our part doesn’t mean we limit our understanding nature or preclude righteous outcomes, it does speak to your intention and a pattern (of sin, concealment, repetition)

This conversation happened as one of the last conversations before the decision point of someone joining the staff. I wanted them to know we took things seriously that could harm them, others in the congregation, and the name of Christ. I wanted them to know our staff’s culture was committed to graceful responses and we had systems to help mitigate these kinds of things before they happened (next week’s blog).

I recall scenarios of both disclosure and discovery. Each one required Biblical examination based on the issue and its response. Each one required the Spirit’s power in them, and us as church leaders to respond effectively.

Some of the “oops” moment(s) were acknowledged as wrong, confessed and the road to right-standing began with safeguards for them and the church. Others were fireable-on-the-spot occurrences. Others meant a reduction in job duties, or a timeout (“administrative leave” in many fields) until we could understand more and discern the best course of action.

Just having the “disclosure v. discovery” conversation is not enough. It requires a plan. It requires resources to help. But maybe more than anything, it requires a culture within your church’s leadership that creates trust so people would disclose and not fear ungraceful and punitive-minded treatment.

Thoughts on culture and systems to help create a disclosure environment is for next week’s post.

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Dings In Your Leadership

“Sudden braking…quick acceleration…distracted driving…high speeds.”

These are all areas I’ve been “dinged on” in the past weeks using my insurance’s app for monitoring safe driving. Theoretically, by using it and showing my insurance company how good a driver I am, I will receive a discount.

But the app’s feedback is quite humbling.

What if we had an app that “dinged” our ministry leadership in real-time?

Who gets real-time interaction with your ministry leadership and also has a way to record your ministry leadership dings?

Maybe you’ve been doing ministry and leadership for a long time and feel you’re beyond the learning curve—perhaps you’re ding proof.

Or perhaps, you’re like me and realizing my years of driving experience doesn’t equate to driving mistakes.

What if after you led a church meeting you got scores measuring your ability to stay on task? Your inclusiveness of others? Your clarity with the messaging? Or with a sermon…your clarity? Your adherence to the Bible? Your articulation of a clear next step?

I believe some real-time and unfiltered scoring could improve our ministry leadership.

Do you have someone you can count on to give you unfiltered feedback?

You’re going to have ask someone for it and ask for it in a way they know you really do want it and you really do expect some critical feedback (hopefully along with some positive feedback).

I realize this can (and should) be done in some sort of performance management system. But I’m talking about something simple. There’s something really helpful about the real-time and informal feedback like I’m describing.

With the driving accountability tracking I’m using my driving score is improving. Just knowing I’m being monitored and that I’m going to see the results has made me conscientiousness about my acceleration, my braking, and my “distracted driving.”

If you’re willing to be “dinged,” find your version of an app scorer and look to see how some mild adjustments can make you a more effective leader.

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