Thoughts about the Director’s Cut from The Overnighters documentary – part 3

This post continues my reflections on a documentary describing the overnighters program at a church in Williston, which provided housing to people looking for work when sufficient housing was not available in the area. First of three discussions on lessons learned from my perspective as one of the leaders in my congregation.

Lessons learned

From the perspective of leadership training in the local church, there are many lessons to be learned from the documentary. Here are six for your consideration:

  • Beware the Lone Ranger mentality.
  • Don’t keep secrets.
  • Set proper boundaries.
  • Your sin will find you out.
  • People lie.
  • Hurting people hurt people.

The first three:

Beware the Lone Ranger mentality. While I loved that TV series as a kid, that show contains a poor model for adults. Ministry in both a local church and a parachurch organization requires teamwork.

If you are out there like the Lone Ranger, single-handedly taking on the bad guys while making the world a wonderful place, you are in danger.

That shows in so many places throughout the documentary. Mr. Reinke was clearly operating as a Lone Ranger.

Don’t keep secrets. One of the scary scenes in the documentary is late at night in the church when the pastor and one of his key helpers (see the people lie and your sin will find you out lessons learned) are discussing whether to tell the elders about the criminal record of several people staying at the church. The pastor says on camera that it would be better not to tell them for a while.

Later in the director’s cut, Mr. Reinke says he hid Keith Graves’ background from the congregation. At the same time, Mr. Reinke was telling Mr. Graves to be open to his employers. Keeping that secret from the congregation was costly.

Unless there is a really strong reason, you are on dangerous ground if you’re keeping secrets from your governing board. Especially in an elder led church.

Obeying the 8th commandment makes this extra difficult. You are not at liberty to share anything you want just because you perceive it is true.

You can only share hurtful, damaging, truthful, relevant information with those people who need to know it and can properly guard the information. This is complex and messy. At the same time, keeping secrets is a bad path to be on.

Set proper boundaries. There are blatant, massive boundary violations visible throughout the documentary.

Look at the movie again pondering the lack of boundaries between Jay Reinke’s involvement with the overnighters program and his duties as a pastor. If I recall correctly, I think he acknowledged in the director’s cut that he was not tending to the flock as he should have.

Watch for the glaring lack of boundaries between his pastoral duties and his obligations to tend to and care for his wife and children. A telling example is the football practice – he was texting during practice while sitting with his wife and a daughter. After practice was finished he kissed his wife and went back to work.

The congregation was also struggling with boundaries. The boundaries were not well-defined and I’m not sure how good a consensus ever existed.

Next: two more lessons learned.

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