12 July 2013

Confidentiality and Leadership

As we have looked at this concept of leadership in the church, I have commented on three of the "Seven Cs of Leadership," namely Calling, Cost, and Commitment. Today we have some thoughts on "Confidentiality."

When you become an identifiable leader in the church, people will come to you. In fact, people from outside the church will come to you. When I worked for a group of newspapers, I was not a pastor, but I was identified by co-workers as a Christian; one who seemed to make decisions based on something other than emotion and desires of the flesh. They never heard me swear. So, they came to me with their questions about relationships; ethical issues; legal problems; you name it. 
You have probably encountered this, as well.

Within the church, when people begin to see that you are taking on your proper role in the body, they will also come to you. Sometimes, depending upon the situation, you may have a group of people working with you and/or for you. If they see I you as a follower of Christ, someone they can trust, they will come to you to tell you things and ask for advice. This is why confidentiality in any Christian leadership situation is important.

One of our jobs as Christians is to listen to one another. Take a look at Romans 15:14 and  2 Corinthians 3:5.

A Christian leader is a counselor, not necessarily in the professional sense that we often apply to that term, but in the sense that we are gifted by God with the ability to listen to one another and instruct or counsel one another. God's Word uses an interesting word to get this concept across: nouthetueo (to put in mind, to admonish, warn, advise). 

We are able, by the grace of God, to help one another with advice and counsel. Understand that this is only a useful gift to the extent that we develop it in a Godly manner. There are a lot of people who are more than willing to tell us what we need to do – and that God spoke to them about your situation. That’s not Godly advice. Nor is it Christian leadership. 

Another word I want to just spend a moment on is “able” or “capable of” or “competent.” This comes from the Greek word dunamis. This is the word from which “dynamite” comes. This is a powerful; explosive gift.
James 5:16 reiterates this concept. 
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Now the reason for me spending so much time on this is that sometimes what people will tell you they will want held in confidence. You need to keep your word if you promise confidence. A good leader doesn’t blab. When I have had counseling appointments, I usually told the people that what they say will be held in the strictest confidence. I do not even tell my wife what is said. Most of the time I do not even tell her who I am counseling. Nor do I tell the elders who I counsel when I report to them – unless it’s a matter that needs to come before them – and the person or persons involved are aware of that. When people trust us, we need to make good on that trust.

However, there are instances when we should neither promise, nor keep, confidences. The Catholic Church insists that if something is said to a priest in his role as confessor. He may not; under any circumstances; divulge what was said. This has been the plot in many a movie and TV drama. But, I am not a priest. There may be times that I have to break this silence.

A word about mandated reporters. A mandated reporter is a person who is constrained by law to report suspected abuse of a person or anyone who makes a threat to himself/herself or others.  According to Maine State law, among the definitions for Mandated Reporter are: "Any person affiliated with a church or religious institution who serves in an administrative capacity or has otherwise assumed a position of trust or responsibility to the members of that church or religious institution, while acting in that capacity regardless of whether that person receives compensation."  The definitions are pretty much the same in all states.

We need to be careful what we hear. If we are not ready to keep confidences - or to break them only when it is a matter of grave danger, then we not accept the role of leader/listener. This is an important role within the Body of Christ, and it is not to be taken lightly.

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