Nov 24, 2014
The Rarity of Transparency
Chris Zeigler, Assistant Director of BASIC College Ministries, talks about the value of transparency for college ministry leaders.
The importance of transparency isn’t a concept that I was taught. It’s something I stumbled upon. It was September 2009 and my wife and I were waiting in a lounge on the campus of SUNY Geneseo for our first meeting as a new campus ministry to begin. Earlier in the day we had spoken with hundreds of students, handing out flyers and inviting them to our first meeting as a new club on campus.
We anxiously waited, praying that some students would show up. After a little while, two students came in. After getting to know them and eating some food, I began to speak on what I had prepared. This was my introduction into leading a college ministry. Up until then, I hadn’t preached much and I had only led a Bible study a couple times. So, I decided to share my heart and my story.
I shared about how I grew up in a Christian home and gave my life to the Lord at the age of 3. I shared with them about how I renewed that commitment as I grew up and my struggle with looking at pornography for many years as a teen. I told them about how God delivered me from that and gave me freedom and how my wife and I had ended up in ministry.
In this social media age I didn’t give a one sentence status about how God is good all the time or a one paragraph bio of my life. I shared the good and the bad. I conveyed the struggles and the victories.
Transparency Creates a Safe Environment
There was something powerful that happened that night as I opened my heart and allowed myself to be transparent. I gained the students trust. They learned who I was and that I was far from perfect. They realized that we had something in common. We are all sinners who need God’s grace. As I spoke, there was a noticeable change in how they viewed me and a relationship was formed.
Transparency Breeds Transparency
The next week one of the students, sensing that she wouldn’t be judged, opened up about her struggles with alcohol and partying since she had arrived at college. She expressed the inner conflict she was experiencing between wanting to have a full social life and wanting to do what she knew was right. Instead of encountering guilt or shame, the group responded to her in love, acceptance and encouragement. I’m happy to say that she’s still faithfully serving the Lord now 5 years later.
We can’t expect students to open up to us and share their deepest struggles if they don’t feel safe. When so many people have been hurt by others, sharing what we’ve gone through can help others feel like they can let their guard down.
So, share your struggles and your victories. Invite students into your home. Show them that your life is far from perfect. They’ll be happy that you did and you’ll get to model for them the freedom that comes through living a life of transparency.