What Happens When Pastors Are Transparent Instead of Being Secretive?

Most scholars and experts claim transparency is necessary for good leadership. Many books on leadership have sections and chapters devoted to the issue of transparency. Unless you work for an organization like the CIA, transparency is often among the top characteristics requested of leaders. Of course, even organizations built on the foundation of secrecy have gotten into trouble for lack of transparency.

Transparency is a healthy leadership characteristic. But why? In the context of a local church, what does a transparent pastor encourage, as opposed to one who is not? What do transparent leaders gain, and what do secretive leaders lose?

Transparent leaders encourage generosity, while secretive leaders raise unnecessary financial questions. When your church knows how the money is spent, givers are inclined to be more generous. Good stewardship does not mean the church has to be austere. But good stewards are always transparent.

Transparent leaders encourage the church to take risks, while secretive leaders make people afraid to fail. Obviously, leaders want to avoid failure as much as possible. And failure due to sin is always wrong. However, if your team never fails, then it means no one is doing anything. Worse still, hiding failures will erode the strength of a church and ultimately cause a collapse. When you are transparent, and your team is transparent with you, you build a culture where it’s okay to fail. Attempting great things means having a few failures along the way. Transparent pastors give their staff and ministry leaders room to fail and get stronger.

Transparent leaders encourage levity, while secretive leaders create channels of gossip and rumors. When you can be yourself, you laugh more. When everyone in a ministry is transparent about who they are, a culture of levity is created. Conversely, secrets are a fuel source for gossip. A lack of transparency stimulates the rumor mill. A ministry team that laughs together will often do more for the gospel. Besides, it’s awkward being the one person laughing in a room full of empty stares. So laugh more together.

Transparent leaders encourage accountability, while secretive leaders breed a culture of distrust. Openness facilitates accountability. Secrecy raises suspicions. True transparency inevitably leads to accountability. Transparent church leaders gravitate towards tighter systems of accountability. Those who suppress the truth typically want to stretch the truth.

What is the difference between confidentiality and secrecy? Confidentiality serves and protects another person or a group of people. Secrecy is a way to protect yourself. Keeping confidence is selfless. Secrecy is selfish. You have much to gain with transparency and much to lose with secrecy.


Rainer on leadership recently covered this topic in a podcast episode. For a more detailed conversation about leadership transparency, listen here.

Posted on August 17, 2022

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • Peter Maxwell says on

    I really agree with what you are saying great Sir! That is why I love our church near me here in TX, https://lhhouston.church/ because our Pastor Keion is an open book! Always brimming with transparency and honesty which clearly shows his devotion to God and his sincerity!

  • Kelley Ashworth says on

    Our Pastor recently read a letter that was written to his parents from when he was in high school. I guarantee thst most went home and talk about it. I know my family did. I feel like transparency is important because you know they are human and make mistakes; like the rest of the congregation. It is honesty and transparency that keeps me going to the church I attend. Thank you for this blog and the email I receive.

  • Bob Myers says on


    This is all good. I affirm all that you have written here.

    It seems, however, that all that you have listed is essentially corporate or institutional transparency. What about personal transparency for a pastor? I think there are benefits there as well. Being transparent about your own personal failures and flaws will cultivate grace and hope in your congregation. Of course, the pastor must be discerning about what he shares about his own life. Not all his “dirty laundry” is appropriate for airing! But the benefits of being honest about one’s owns weakness will empower people who struggle in a similar way to embrace the grace and strength that comes through Christ. They may even seek you out for counsel.

    Thanks again for an important reflection on leadership.

    • Sam Rainer says on

      Bob – I’m 100% with you. I was approaching the topic more organizationally and less personally. But you are spot on. Personal transparency is just as important.

  • Thank you for writing this blog. I was released from a church that kept their secrets close and those who weren’t part of the click were ostracized. This hit home for me then and even now that people even Pastors will protect themselves at the cost of keeping there secrets secret and making it look like it was someone else’s fault. I just wish that more people in congregations could see this and help their Pastor if they have one with all these qualities.

    • Sam Rainer says on

      Johnny – I’m sorry for what you experienced. You are right. We’ve all got to help each other be more transparent.