Something is transparent when you can see through it. Similarly, a person is transparent when he is not pretentious—when she discloses her setbacks as well as victories. Such a person is called "real" because he does not mask what is going on inside. With discretion, her prayer requests are specific and honest. He seeks support and counsel by telling others in the group when he is hurting or in need of help. She shares anecdotes from her pilgrimage as a Christian in order to assist newer believers. He explains how a Bible truth encourages or challenges him.
Put simply, you can see inside, or through, a transparent person.
This attribute of group life depends on the modeling of the leader. When you are honest in your prayer requests, others feel safer revealing their burdens. When you tell stories of a truth's impact on your life, that truth is more likely to penetrate their hearts, not just their heads. When your disclosures suggest that you are not self-sufficient and that you need to lean on Christ and other believers, people are less likely to live independently and more likely to seek the help that they need.
Should a leader publicize every secret she's ever shared with God? No. Should he divulge every private sin that has ever plagued him? Of course not! Be discreet in what you say. Do not feel you have to show all your failings to the group. In fact, before choosing what personal things to share, think about these six guidelines:
- Will my personal anecdote accelerate Bible learning by clarifying a truth we are covering?
- Will my personal illustration show the benefits of obeying a particular truth or the painful consequences of neglecting it?
- Will my self-revelation encourage others to share needs and prayer requests?
- Will self-disclosure meet a genuine need in my life for emotional support and prayer?
- Will my illustration portray family members or friends in a negative manner?
- Have I received permission to tell the story from people who could be embarrassed by it?
Even the highly-respected apostle Paul modeled transparency before the people he taught: "We do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life … we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raised the dead… . He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers" (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).
The Benefits of Transparency
A transparent leader will see the following fruits as a result of his openness:
- Your transparency will enhance your relationship with group members and facilitate more one-on-one ministry with them. Your group members will view you as approachable and feel safer talking to you about needs they might not want to reveal to the entire group.
- Your transparency will spawn a deeper level of sharing among group members. They will be less superficial because you have set the pace. They will not feel alone or like a second-class Christian because their leader has already demonstrated authenticity.
- Your self-disclosure will foster deeper fellowship within the group. Experiencing the relational (one-another) commands in the New Testament requires a level of openness that few groups attain. Without a willingness to be transparent, we cannot bear each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2); comfort one another (2 Corinthians 1:4-7); encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11); forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32); care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25); nor weep or rejoice with each other (Romans 12:15).