Assault VII: Transparency.
Your ministry team wants the people to feel confident in their church. They want their congregation to put their trust in their leadership and they want their ministries to grow in effectiveness and depth. They want people to come just as they are, with all of their bumps and bruises and share how the Love has used those stories for His Good. They seek people that can be honest about their imperfections and the ministers are honored to walk alongside of them in their journey. They are blessed with the responsibility to help carry the weight of the people's hearts and always want to help the people seek the Peace they have been looking for.
However, your ministry team is going to be very careful about what they say about themselves, and how they say it, and whom they say it all to. They are going to hold most people at arm's length when it comes to their personal struggles and issues. They have learned the hard way that sometimes the church just isn't as nice as it ought to be. It's full of sinners and liars and thieves. It's full of gossips and angry and abusive personalities.
It's full of broken and pitiful people.
Just like the members of your ministry team.
Your minister might stand in the pulpit and tell you some stories from his past as examples. He will tell you victories and losses in his daily walk--but I have a feeling he's not telling you about the worst thing he's ever done or the thing that is currently eating him alive inside. Your minister's wife probably has a smile on her face as she greets you with a hug and speaks to your children--but she's not going to tell you that she's falling apart on the inside with all of the weight of her family and husband's ministry on her shoulders. That worship leader is singing songs about redemption, love, and mercy--but his heart refuses to believe the words are true for him as well.
It's often too risky for them to share their deepest struggles with their congregation. The people in the church are often not at a place to absorb the sins and struggles of their leadership. The people say they want leaders and they say they know the leaders aren't perfect people--but one sin, one mistake, one action can send their ministers right out the door to the unemployment line. And your ministry team often feels compelled to not let the people down in their expectations--so they suppress what's eating them alive and limp along trying to keep it all together.
They've learned the hard way because they've been taught the hard way. They've been burned by trusted leaders and members of a congregation before. They've spilled their hurts and had them used against them. They have been honest with their feelings when the church didn't want (or wasn't ready) to hear it and it made the wrong people upset. They have seen that for every trusted person in the church, there are multiple others who ultimately want to bring them down.
So they hide. They hide their feelings from the people. They hide their feelings from their leadership. They hide their feelings from their family. They have long and serious talks with the Lord, but they are scared to find people they trust enough to share their struggles with. They are even careful to speak to other ministers about their issues. Pride is a difficult thing to swallow, and even among the ministers there is an expectation of success and a fear of not measuring up.
Need a visual? Imagine a room full of football coaches (musicians, lawyers, military officials, politicians, etc)--and then put your ministers' faces on them. It's the same situation, different faces. They only want to share their stories of success. They want to talk about the latest wonderful thing they have happening in their church. They want to boast of numbers, of celebrations, of new and exciting. They don't want anyone to know that their hearts can't keep up with the mounting pressure that ministry brings.
They've also seen the young (and often inexperienced) ministers who tend to share too much. The ministers cringe at the words--and they discuss strategy, tips, and ideas--because they don't want the responsibility of telling the person that perhaps ministry is not their calling in life.
And your seasoned minister does not want to be on the receiving end of those types of conversations.
Church, your ministers need people to walk alongside of them. They need the people who are going to be straight with them in all of their ups and downs. But more than anything, they need a friend. They need to find those trusted people within and outside of their ministries to share their struggles with. They need someone to share crazy and funny things that have happened to them. Sometimes it's a family within the church, and sometimes it's another person in the ministry.
My husband has been blessed with some folks in his life who have taken the time to really know him and his heart and are able to speak love, encouragement, and correction to him. And because these people have proven themselves to be trustworthy, he is able to receive their words without hurt, anger, or judgement. These are the folks he can be himself around, without any hidden agendas or favors or expectations requested in return for their friendship.
There are certain families (inside and outside of ministry) in our lives and I don't know how we would survive without them--and I pray that we are the same support to them. I know that when I'm around them I can say exactly how I'm feeling, and it's not going to be used against me nor will it be their next topic of discussion at lunch with others. They let us be funny, they let us be parents, they let us be spouses, they let us be angry, they let us be heartbroken, they let us be completely human--and it is refreshing.
If you are upset that a minister or his family isn't chummy with you, maybe ask yourself why you are feeling upset. Why do you want to be friends with them--because you like them, or because you like the idea of being close to the inner circle of knowledge? Trust me, there isn't (or shouldn't be) a popular table at your church. Your ministers don't have time to deal with that sort of drama when they are in the business of saving souls.
And if you've been chosen as their friend, guard that friendship.
It is indeed a great honor.