Lead the Way

By Joel Comiskey, check out: Facilitate

Group transparency will never happen unless the leader shares some of his or her deep struggles. David Hocking says, “Learn to admit your mistakes in the presence of the group and to apologize sincerely when things go wrong or do not turn out the way you expected…admitting failure in the midst of success is a key to good leadership. Learn to be open and honest before others. They’ll love you for it (or at least fall over backwards out of shock!)” [The Seven Laws of Christian Leadership, p. 63]

If the leader always wants to give the best impression, the other small group members will do likewise. Some leaders imagine they’re promoting transparency, but their testimonies don’t resonate with the members. “Pray for me, I’m really struggling. Normally, I spend 4 hours in daily prayer and Bible reading, but recently I’ve only spent 1 hour . . .” How will people react? “Yea, right, like she really needs our prayers. . .” Most likely the majority in the group struggle to spend 15 minutes in daily devotions.

Don’t wait until you have a major problem to share. What about the small, daily difficulties we all face? The breakdown of your computer, the long wait in line, or the demanding schedule at work.

When my computer broke down, for example, I shared my frustration with the group. “This has been a miserable week. I didn’t reach a single objective. I was a slave to trying to get my computer running again.” People could relate, and they saw me as a real person—as opposed to Pastor Comiskey! Ralph Neighbour says:

We have found in Small group life that group members will typically be as transparent and open as the leader is willing to be. In other words, group members will seldom “risk” transparency and openness until they have seen someone else take the same risk. . . . The question is whether God would have all of us be open and vulnerable. Living in community means living in relationship, and living in relationship means vulnerability and transparency [Cell Church magazine]

“I don’t know how to model transparency,” you say. “How do I begin?” Why don’t you ask the members to pray for an area of weakness or struggle in your own life? When asking a question that requires vulnerability, share first, setting the model for others to follow.

Shirley Peddy says, “Tell your story first. So often we make the mistake of asking the other person a question, and putting him on the spot. By disclosing something personal about yourself, you take the initial step toward creating trust” [The Art of Mentoring: Lead, Follow, and Get Out of the Way, p. 46]

You don’t always need to share problems, fears or weaknesses. What about your desires and plans? Transparency means talking about yourself in an honest way, allowing others to know your aspirations, dreams, and hopes.