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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

21 Jul '11

Spin control

We hear it every day on the news channels. The government, businesses or individuals who have something to explain engaging in spin control. At its best, spin control is designed to get your facts out in as favorable a light as possible, knowing that others will spin your story in highly unsavory ways. At its worst, and perhaps all too common, spin control is used to rewrite the actual facts when they are not in our favor which amounts to dishonesty and lying. It is one of the reasons that many are rather cynical when listening to people who are obviously "spinning" reality to try to convince us of an alternative reality.

It is sad that many churches and ministry organizations do the same thing when confronted with situations that they need to explain and the simple facts of the situation will make them look bad. It is sad because truth is one of the fundamental characteristics of God's character and deceit or lying is one of God's all time "hates" (see Proverbs). 

I am not suggesting that all facts about all situations must be shared. What I am suggesting is that what is shared must be consistent with the truth and would stand up to scrutiny if all the relevant parties were present. Church leaders who are not as candid as they ought to be - either because it will make them look bad - or because they don't want to deal with the fall out find that their spin goes out of control when people start to realize that they have not been given the full story - or even a truthful story. Even when done in the spirit of "we need to protect the congregation" it does not work - and that is often an excuse not to be truthful.

I know of a recent situation where allegations of sexual abuse in a mission agency's past came to light. Rather than bringing it into the open, the board simply fired the chief executive (who had nothing to do with that era of mission history). He became the scapegoat and the agency tried to hide the facts of the past. The latter will not work.

I know of a pastor who recently left his pastorate over deep conflict with his board but the situation was spun all ways to Sunday rather than simply acknowledging what many in the congregation already know - leaving the board with even less trust than they had before.

Why are we afraid of truth? Again, not everything needs to be said but people are not stupid and truth, no matter how hard builds trust while lack of transparency kills trust. Organizations that engage in dishonest spin find that they get caught in that spin for years rather than just being honest, taking the lumps and moving on. Even secular consultants will tell you to get whatever is going to get out on the table quickly, apologize where necessary, share your next steps and start to move on and rebuild trust. It is always the best way.

Covering up has to do with our pride. Transparency has to do with humility.