Communication and Confidentiality: Defining expectations that edify

The following is a conversation between three Sunday School volunteers. Volunteer #1 works in the third grade room. Volunteers #2 and #3 work in the fifth grade room…Let’s listen in on the conversation they had in the hallway after Sunday School…


Volunteer #1: “Have you seen Mrs. Cooper’s third grader? He sure is in a bratty mood today…”

Volunteer #2: “I know…and I heard that her preschool child knows some VERY colorful words. She is really mean to the other kids in the room, too. She’s a handful. At least that’s what I heard.”

Volunteer #3: “Oh, are you talking about the Cooper kids? Wow. They’re headed for trouble when they’re teenagers…”

Volunteer #1: “Yeah. Mrs. Cooper told the pastor  that the third grader takes,” (lowering her voice to a whisper) “Medication for controlling anxiety. I’m only telling you that so you’ll pray for them. Don’t tell anyone else…”

Volunteer #3: “Oh, of course. Mrs. Cooper is really challenged by those kids.”

Volunteer #2: “Bless her heart.”

Think for a moment. What is wrong with this conversation?

If you answered, “Just about everything,” please give yourself a gold star, a pat on the back, and a piece of Dove dark chocolate.

Here is a summary of what bothers me…

  • The conversation is taking place in a public area of the church
  • Only one volunteer works directly with the Cooper children
  • Volunteer #1 is spreading information given to a pastor
  • Words like “bratty” and “mean” are not edifying or respectful
  • The conversation focuses solely on the perceived problems
  • The whole conversation is gossip
  • The gossip is wrapped up in “Christianese” that is supposed to make it acceptable: “…pray for her” and the tagline, “bless her heart.”

What if Mrs. Cooper, or one of her children had overheard this? What is the likelihood that they might return to church?

Good communication in the millennium requires thought and effort. We need to choose our words carefully, with the goals of maintaining safety, improving our teaching and behavior management abilities, and nurturing the child’s and family’s spiritual growth.

We encourage each church to develop some guidelines for communication that will edify the Body of Christ while maintaining the dignity and confidentiality of each family. This document is one way to communicate this policy to volunteers and family members:


We will be talking more about online training and communication later this week; we’ll discuss how to do this in a positive way, who to include in these groups, and how to manage and moderate the information that is shared. Do you currently have an online training or communication group for your ministry? Email me at  and tell me about it! I’ll be interested in your ideas!

And, remember what your Grandma told you: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”


Stay tuned for information on Communication rights and responsibilities, using technology effectively, and choosing words and phrases that build up rather than tear down.

3 thoughts on “Communication and Confidentiality: Defining expectations that edify

  1. Pingback: Communication Breakdown…Doing Ministry Together Without Diagnostic Labels | Church4EveryChild

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