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20 Jan '14

When sensitive information needs to be communicated to a congregation

Posted by T.J. Addington in communication, crisis management
From time to time, church leaders need to share sensitive information to their congregation regarding sinful behavior of a leader or congregant. While hopefully a rare event, when it does become necessary the question is always how much do we divulge and for what purpose do we reveal it. There is no one answer that fits every situation but asking the following questions about what one proposes to share can help frame the communication. 

Is what we are sharing true? We may well not share all that we know but are we being truthful in our communication rather than trying to cover something up?

If the full story were revealed would our congregation be satisfied that what we told them was truthful?

Is the information already circulating? To the extent that information is already known, it may be wise to be more candid than less.

Do we have a redemptive purpose in mind even as we share bad news?

What is likely to come out regarding this situation? How much we share is sometimes a factor of how much information is likely to become public. The more it is likely to become public the more we may need to share.

How does our communication impact others involved if there are any? If there are victims, does our communication violate them in any way? Are they aware and OK with what we intend to share?

Have we vetted our statement with an attorney? We live in a litigious society. Be smart in one's communication.

If there is a threat to others posed by the situation (someone who has abused children, for instance) have we taken adequate steps to protect the congregation?

Have we given guidelines for how the congregation is to deal with the information we have provided?