Taking the Risk of Openness and Vulnerability in Ministry

miners castle Pictured Rocks Fall 2015

We live in a time when we are encouraged to be more open and even show vulnerability than when I first began my ministry journey. Most ministers I have met, and I myself have built up walls of protection over time. We are very cautious over who we let into the most intimate parts of our life. It can be very scary to open up about our weak areas or the greatest failures that we might have. We may fear judgment or worse yet that someone might use our pain against us in some way.

Ministry in any capacity is filled with a variety of pressures and problems. The pressure of ministry can cause us to feel like it is hard to keep balance and control in our lives. Ministry sometimes is like being the plate spinner at the circus. Except we are balancing on the high wire in a fifty-mile-an-hour wind, as we try to keep all the plates in balance.

We who minister truly do want to be open and honest with people. We want to show them where God has helped us through difficulties and blessed our lives. However, too much revelation might make it seem like we are encouraging people to go out and commit the very sins we are trying to steer them away from. Some people might even take such deeply personal information to use against us. To be open with others is a real risk.

Sharing in openness and does have risk and vulnerability, but it can draw you deeper with people. You will be more effective by being more authentic as well. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but here are a few things that I have learned with experience and time. The risk is well worth it, but we can be better prepared if we keep a few things in mind.

Three things I Have Learned About being Open and Vulnerable in Ministry

1. We Must Realize That Openness and Vulnerability Will Open us to Pain

You must accept the fact that in ministry journey we are going to experience pain. We will be rejected. We will be hated at times. There will be some who are angry at us with intent, but most people lash out at us out of weakness and brokenness in their own lives.

Jesus warned the disciples of people. He said, “If they hate you, remember thy hated me first”. Jesus was often despised by people when he opened up to them. They also tried using everything they knew about him to destroy his mission. They belittled his family and where he had grown up, to try to discredit his authority.

In my life, it has taken time, for me to grow in becoming more open in ministering to others. I thought I was open to people in the early days of my ministry, and then years ago I was confronted about how unopen and closed off I really was. We had just finished an open survey in the church, in which we ministered, and I was going through the responses. In response to whether I, the pastor, was open and approachable only one person out of many said no. However, that one “no” dug deep into my heart causing me to take some time to think.

It took some time, in fact, it took years, but I began to make changes. I started sharing more of myself and being more open. I admit I started very slowly but the openness with others has changed my whole leadership style and ministry dynamic. It has also allowed me and my wife to develop some very deep friendships, which we never truly had with people before becoming so open and vulnerable. Today I really couldn’t see myself ministering to others without developing close and open relationships with those I serve.

2. Openness in Right Doses

You notice that I said this process took time. I opened up in small ways in personal relationships and small groups. Eventually, I began to show vulnerability in my sermons. It took a few years before I became more comfortable with sharing my heart in more open ways. I am still careful with how far I share depending on the group I am with.

Today’s more open and honest ministry is a wonderful change to pastors who seemed unreal and plastic. However, some in ministry seem to downplay the consequences of poor choices. In an effort to be open it is easy to appear accepting of sin and even to cause a weaker person to stumble.
This is why sharing in right doses is critical. You can share past sins without hearing the details that destroy the witness of God. You can learn to be more open and vulnerable in sharing while still being professional and shedding positive light on the position God has placed you in.

You also need to know the audience and persons with whom you share well enough to know just how open you should be. Relationships take time, and all of us have people in our circles and ministries that we know we need to be more protective with, and other with whom we can be fully open. To know this takes time, and occurs as we live life together working and playing in various ways.

3. Develop Needed Accountability Friendships with Colleagues

In order for us to minister effectively into the lives of those we serve we need others outside to turn to for accountability. They can give us help and can call us out, or up, when we are in need.

I really feel the church is family, and we are to have deep relationships. However, the strongest of families often have parents who have close friendships outside the immediately family. They are there to pray and lift one another through the deep issues, so the family can be stronger. Parents cannot dump all of their issues on their children or it will destroy them. We who lead in God’s family need to keep this in mind too. Instead, we need others to help us bear the burdens of some issues in our own lives.

Find a person or small group of like-minded colleagues or ministers with whom you can bear your heart and deeper needs. Together you will find blessing and strength for your ministry journey. Be sure that you keep an agreement of confidentiality in your group. Also, be willing to make time with these people a priority, so that you can be stronger for the ministry you serve.

God calls us to be open, and vulnerable. To minister deeply requires developing more intimate and honest relationships. It is a risk, but one with both eternal and tempera rewards. I pray that God guides you in wisdom as you seek to lead and minister in His family.

Blessings on the journey with Jesus.

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Good Bye Friend

I recently was with a group of people, and someone was telling us how to use FACEBOOK. While he explained the way to be open or closed while on-line he said, ‘If you don’t want to to talk with that contact, then just delete that friend.’ I joked with him about how that really shows the shallowness of our society. “Just delete that friend.”

I wonder how many people go through life, deleting relationships so quickly. Contacts on-line are deleated with a clik of the mouse. Some people stop talking with others in real life. We live in a throw away society, but we really should use care about deleting friendship.

– Keep on your journey with Jesus.

Good Friends in the Lord

The writer of Proverbs said, ” A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” It is a real blessing to find a close friend.

Men often struggle in making true solid friends. We often have those in our lives who we call friends, that are really acquaintances. A true friend sticks by you through the hardest of days and is there to celebrate the greatest joy. They will listen to you in your trials, and you will console them in their woes.

Men like to try to stand alone, but the fact is that we all need help through out our life. Yes, I agree with most people that our spouse should be our closest friend. However, I also think that if we have a strong friend to rely on in all times our families will be stronger. There are times we need someone who can relate to us. Another person of our same gender who can help us face the world around us.

I have been blessed with such a friend. Duane and I have known each other 11 years this month. We met, as I became youth pastor in a church where he attended. Today we both serve in ministry and we lift one another up in prayer, and care. We are there for each other through any circumstance. Although we live three hours apart we still encourage and help one another. Our families even vacation together at times, and celebrate holidays. In an average week we speak at least three times by phone. With my own brother I speak maybe every two months.

I thank God for a friend, who does stick by me. I hope you find someone who you can trust with your life, and face life with in the future.

Keep on your Journey with Jesus,