For most ministry leaders, we spend a lot of our time walking with others through their best and worst days. Chances are you have spent some tough hours by a hospital bed or received that 2:00 a.m. phone call from a parent. Ministry is messy; it’s filled with moments of great victories and deep sorrows. You can get use to being the person that everyone depends on.
So what happens when you have a bad day?
We, as ministry leaders, can be experts at comforting others while being totally alone in our own brokenness. As I have talked to several ministry leaders, I have noticed how often leaders either hide or suppress their pain, because they feel as if they don’t have anyone to comfort them. I believe that we actually have more people willing to fight for us than we admit. There could be a group of people wanting to bear your burden, yet we choose to go through our struggle alone.
It’s tragic that we can preach about transparency and bearing burdens while we hide ours.
I think it’s not only harmful for us to hide our pain and struggles, but it is often hypocritical.
“Ty, are you saying we should tell everyone about all of our struggles from the pulpit?”
Absolutely not. I am, however, saying that you should be allowing the people around you - those closest to you - into your life. The problem is we often see transparency as a form of weakness. The idea that being transparent makes you weak is ridiculous.
Transparency leads to transformation.
The moment you allow others into your struggle, you start allowing them to help you. We as ministry leaders are not perfect; we should stop acting like we are. The idea that we have to be perfect actually hinders our ability to truly lead the people around us. Acting as if you are somehow perfect and have no struggles strips you of your ability to effectively speak to imperfect people. If you yell at people to be transparent while you hide your struggle, you are not qualified to walk with others in their struggles.
We, as ministry leaders, must lead the way in the fight for transparency. We must be willing to share our imperfections. Can we be super honest for a second? (Not sure why I asked that… I was going to share my thoughts either way! haha) I firmly believe that people in our ministries are often times better at transparency than some of their leaders.
I want to lead my ministry in all ways, including transparency. I want my life to be in sync with the words I preach. I hope you want the same thing.
I want to break down three practical ways that I try to be intentional about transparency:
Open up your mouth, say some words, and let your 2-3 closest friends know that you struggle.
When you first get into ministry, there is the temptation to convince even your closest friends that everything is so awesome and that you are so mature. You may not always realize it, but more often than not, we try to convince our closest friends that we are not hurting. So, in order to counter that, we must be intentional with sharing our struggle.
Look for opportunities to say things like, “Hey guys. I have been feeling super discouraged recently. Can you pray for me?”
As simple as that seems, it will begin to transform those friendships. Your friends will be able to pray for you specifically and love you intentionally. Transparency can transform your friendships.
Share small snapshots of your struggles when others are sharing their pain.
You have to be super careful here. You never want to be the person that one-ups everyone’s stories.
“I am sorry your dog died. My dog was way closer to me, so I know EXACTLY what you are going through.”
Ummmm… No you don’t. Never be the person that says, “I know EXACTLY what you are going through.” Doing so can actually belittle the person’s pain and as a result, push them away. You want the person to know that you are listening to them. There will definitely be times for you to relate to others’ struggles.
Relating to someone’s struggle should look something like, “I hate that your dog died. I am so sorry for your loss. Do you mind if I share something I learned when my dog passed away?”
This shows that you care about their struggle while also showing that you have struggled as well. Both are so important.
Allow transparency to have a place in your teaching.
You do not have to share every detail of every struggle that you have ever experienced. Ultimately, you do not want to make the pulpit about you. I do believe, however, there are opportunities in our teaching to share personal stories of struggle or pain. For example, if you are teaching on discouragement, share a small snapshot of a time when you struggled with discouragement. This shows listeners that you are not above them; it shows that you are with them.
People want to know they are not alone. Use your platform to let people know that everyone struggles.
As you make the choice to be more transparent with your people, you will experience moments of discomfort; transparency and comfort are always at odds. In the moments of discouragement and discomfort, trust that transparency will lead to transformation. Trust the process.
As much as transparency will help your ministry, it will help you the most. The moment you take that false expectation of having to be perfect, you can truly start to lead well. People are not looking for you to be perfect; be you, be real, and be faithful!