I will admit, I have mixed emotions about Non Disclosure Agreements (NDA) when it comes to the church. On the one hand, I can see the value of such an agreement when it comes to conversations Leaders have with people in the church concerning things happening in their lives. But on the other hand, I see them as more of a controlling device that simply becomes a gag-order when problems or issues rear their ugly head in the church. Sure, there needs to be safety for people who unload their hurts to those in leadership, this is a given. But, when a NDA is used to keep the inner workings of the church a secret, I’m not there.
I have actually had conversations with Pastors who demand that all Leaders and employees, paid and not, sign such an agreement. One told me that he does it because he fears gossip. Really? You mean you pick leaders who are given to gossip? He assured me that it was for those who unintentionally shared private information about another. The problem with that idea is that if someone shares unintentionally, but simple definition, it is not something they planned on doing; it was unintentional.
Recently, two churches have been hit by this issue, Elevation Church (in Charlotte) and Mars Hill (in Seattle). But I know of others who have such agreements, Impact Church (Woodlands), and Valley Family Church (Kalamazoo) to name just two more. Sure, as I said before, they can be seen in a positive light, but what happens when they are used in a negative, controlling way? What happens when a NDA is used to hide abuse, or theft? What if it is used more as a hammer and less like a key to confidentiality? Would the NDA stop a person in a leadership role from reporting abuse; even subtle abuse? That is where I have the biggest issues.
Now, let me say this, and say it as clear as I can, no NDA would stop me from reporting abuse, of any kind. But, I tend to be a rather strong, confident, in your face kind of guy when it comes to things like that – but what if I was a weaker man? Would I turn a blind eye to abuse? Would others turn a blind eye towards abuse? You see, signing an NDA goes beyond simply not gossiping, it goes to silencing another’s voice, another’s opinion.