I prefer sun-filled rooms and open communication. As I continue to travel throughout the Church for denominational work, I find that – like families – churches with secrets tend to be broken and dysfunctional. Sure there’s some business that needs to stay confidential. But while confidences are kept for the health of a person or organization, secrets perpetuate the brokenness of a person or organization.
Our congregations and mid-councils (not to mention our government and businesses) are filled with secrets or half-truths spread to perpetuate a certain bias.
For example, The President spoke at a Boeing plant in S.C. last week and said, “This plane, as you know, was built right here in the great state of South Carolina. Our goal as a nation must be to rely less on imports and more on products made here in the U.S.A.” But the truth is that the plane being highlighted that day was Exhibit A for globalization:
“It’s fuselage comes from Italy. The wings are from Japan. Passenger doors are built in France.” (Source here.) It’s indeed great to be “made in America.” It’s also great to be “made everywhere and put together in America.” Speaking the truth bolsters trust and makes us understand what’s really going on.
I hear Mid-Councils – as I travel around – talk about shifting budgets and staff structures, when actually the budgets and staffs often remain the same. The truth is that the money is reallocated to a new line item. Or the staff members have different titles with the same responsibilities. Sometimes we think we are doing new things but – in truth – maybe we aren’t.
It’s okay to tell the truth. Trust us. We can take it.
Shedding light on the underbellies and the processes of our organizations bolsters relationships. And because trust levels are at an all-time low in our institutions, it’s essential that we share as much of the whole truth as we can share for the sake of organizational health.
I visited one Mid-Council recently and was impressed with the way they openly discussed one of those skeletons in the closet that most of us like to pretend never happened. It was treated with such transparency and grace that it made me – personally – feel inspired. Yes, we are indeed Resurrection People and we can overcome mistakes and failures. What a concept.
Some of us will remember the refreshing smell of bedsheets dried on a clothesline out in the sunshine. Some of us know people who openly – and lovingly – share their mental illness, their business failures, the child they shared for adoption, the child they lost to addiction, their own addiction, their lessons learned.
These are the things of a real family, a real church, a real community of churches. Life is messy and sunshine disinfects the messiest of systems. We, as the Church of Jesus Christ, can never be healthy until we are as transparent as possible and as safe as possible.
Note: Louis Brandeis is credited with saying, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” in Other People’s Money—and How Bankers Use It (1914)