Who are you, really?
Advantages of the Transparent Leader
- Imagine a pastor keeping his wife and children at home — sending them to a different church — never mentioning their names, never referring to them in conversation.
- Imagine him parking down the street, slipping in the back door of the church, never letting his congregation know where he lives.
- Imagine him never telling anyone a thing about himself, about his activities, about his feelings.
How effective could his ministry be?
The truth is that many ministers operate on this basis, or some version of it — and many churchgoers have come to expect it. They sit in the pew, they listen to a sermon, it’s full of truth, it’s full of theory, it’s full of instructions for them — but there’s no connection to the individual delivering it.
All of which may be all right … but it’s probably not ideal.
- The richest ministry grows out of personal relationships.
If my pastor is transparent — if I see how he actually lives what he teaches, week in and week out — his words have far more impact with me.
Even within the context of the sermon itself, personal transparency increases the listener’s attention and retention. Churchgoers reflexively tune out about 20 minutes into a sermon — unless the preacher “interrupts” himself with an attention-salvaging device. One of the simplest devices is to reveal something about himself.
- Because of the way human beings are wired, we respond to transparency.
When you tell me something about yourself, it signals me that “we are alike” — and this opens a channel between us.
Likewise, one of the most powerful tools of communication available to a ministry marketer is simple transparency. When the ministry leader tells me, in the context of an appeal, something about himself, it engages me in a way that no amount of rational explanation of the need and the benefits can.
A letter or email to your donors might say, “I feel this is one of the most important actions we could ever take together.” But it would more effectively communicate if it said, “I was sitting in my Toyota yesterday, stuck in traffic. I normally would have been frustrated about running late, but instead I found myself thinking about this plan — because it’s one of the most important actions we could ever take together.”
You could ask me to give to a project — or you could tell me that you and your spouse have talked about it and decided, because you believe in it so strongly, to give a sacrificial gift … and ask me to do likewise.
Transparency has a connecting effect on a reader or a listener.
- “Yesterday my six-year-old said to me…”
- “When our dog ran away a few weeks ago, we thought…”
- “I hardly ever skip the sports section of the paper, but this morning…”
For some reason, transparency makes us want to hear more.
Many ministers go through their entire ministry careers without revealing themselves; they may be successful in ministry; but it’s likely they haven’t communicated as effectively with as many people as they might have otherwise.
Ministries may establish large mailing lists with loads of donors without transparency — but they never know how much more they could have accomplished, how many more donors they could have inspired, how much more those donors might have given, if the ministry leader had been willing to be transparent.
The more the messenger is intertwined with the message, the better able the listener/reader will be to receive the message.
- Donors fail to stick with their causes when transparency is lacking.
It’s natural that a ministry leader wants to present a perfectly polished, corporate organization to donors. So that’s the goal they pursue. They present the organization, its goals, its activities — but none of their own humanity.
Result: their donors don’t become their friends. Their donors simply give to the concept of the organization — and their loyalty never takes root. When another cause comes along — or, even more likely, a human being who establishes a real relationship and asks for help — that donor is gone.
Next time you sign your name to an appeal, take a moment and read it through again as if it were going to your best buddy from high school. How would he or she feel about you, getting a letter or email like this? Chances are, you’ve written a corporate treatise — but not a message from the heart.
Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples. He didn’t hide. They saw what He was, day in and day out. Jesus expressed Himself transparently. So should we.