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January 20, 2011

The Answer: Small Groups, Confidentiality, and the Law

See the response from a legal expert.


Earlier this week I posted a question from a pastor who wanted to know if the idea of confidentiality in small groups had any kind of legal support. (Click here to see the full question if you missed it.) The pastor was concerned because one of his group members had been forced to speak in court about something that happened in a previous small group, and the pastor wanted to assure this person that it would not happen again in his church.

Kudos to those of you who responded with your answers, because you were pretty much correct. Here's why attorney Frank Sommerville had to say in response to the pastor's query:

The small groups are not private for legal purposes. Anyone present can be compelled to tell what happened. There is nothing you can do to prevent this possibility.


Just something interesting to keep in mind if a potential group member ever asks about this kind of thing.

By the way, in the earlier post I incorrectly mentioned that the pastor's question came from our friends at Your Church. It was actually part of the Church Administration discussion board at Yahoo!. (If you're interested in becoming part of that group, you can create a Yahoo e-mail account and then contact

posted by Sam O'Neal on January 20, 2011 9:39 AM

Related Tags: Confidentiality, Legal Issues


Do Pastors still have the right in a court-of-law to withhold what is told to them in confidence, and if so,do other non-ordained ministry staff share that same right?

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