April 03, 2010 Q & A

Confidentiality guidelines for elder visits


Are matters that members share with elders on home visits confidential? Do elders report to the session what has been shared with them? Do you have guidelines on confidentiality when elders do home visits?


This is a very good question. The session on which I serve follows this general rule: If it is information that is necessary to provide oversight of a member's soul, it is going to be shared with the rest of the session unless there is good reason not to.

With regard to your elders, it might depend upon whether or not you asked them not to repeat what is told to them. For the most part the elders have come to see how you are doing spiritually and are not interested in gossip.

But there are times when matters discussed are of importance to the church and perhaps to your soul. For example, if you say you intend to become a Muslim, or you intend to murder a neighbor, or you are angry with the pastor, such information needs to be given to the rest of the session (or in the last example, the pastor needs to know, don't you think?). On the other hand, that you struggle with your faith, or you wish you had spent more time in the last year reading your Bible, or are not sure how to share your faith, those things are not likely to be made a major item of discussion. Do you see the difference?

Your best option, though, is to ask the elders up front what your session's policy is. And if you are going to tell them something you want kept private, just ask them to keep it confidential. On the whole the best guidelines are found in Ephesians 4:29.



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