January 17, 2011
I'd like your opinion regarding the legality of small-group confidentiality.
One of the benefits of working on the team at Christianity Today International is that I sometimes get "insider information" from some of the other resources in our corporate family.
For example, the following question was recently sent to the editors over at Your Church Resources:
An issue has come up in our church about peoples' legal obligations regarding confidential matters discussed in small group meetings. We strive to maintain strict confidentiality on things discussed in our small group settings. We want them to be a "safe place" where people can share their troubles and not have to worry about group members spreading gossip or the information somehow ending up in a courtroom.
One woman we heard from was in a small group in another church and group members were called in to testify against her in court. Before joining one of our small groups she wanted to be assured that sort of thing would not happen.
So my question is, how private are small groups really? We typically get information second-hand and are not usually witnesses to things that happen in people's homes or in their personal relationships. So can we, should we, be required to appear in court about things we might know about from small group sessions? Are we able to assure people that our groups are in-fact safe for them? Is there any case history that addresses these issues?
The Your Church folk have already solicited an answer to these questions from attorney Frank Sommerville, which I will reveal on Wednesday. Between now and then, however, I would love to hear your opinions.
How would you respond to this pastor in need?
posted by Sam O'Neal on January 17, 2011 3:20 PM