Prominent political figures have insisted that secrecy and/or privacy are essential to the Family's operation. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan said about the Family, "I wish I could say more about it, but it's working precisely because it is private."
In 2009, Chris Halverson, son of Fellowship co-founder Richard C. Halverson, said that a culture of secrecy is essential to their mission: "If you talked about it, you would destroy that fellowship."
From the 1930s to the 1960s it was organized as a more traditional religious association. In 1966, Fellowship founder Abraham Vereide became concerned about his organization's growing publicity and declared in a letter that it was time to “submerge the institutional image of [the Family].” Author Jeff Sharlet describes this shift in operation:
Thereafter, the Fellowship would avoid at all costs any appearance of an organization... Business would be conducted on the letterhead of public men, who would testify that Fellowship initiatives were their own. Finances would be more ‘man-to-man,’ which is to say, off the books.
In 1975, a member of the Family's inner circle wrote to the group's chief South African member, that their political initiatives
...have always been misunderstood by 'outsiders.' As a result of very bitter experiences, therefore, we have learned never to commit to paper any discussions or negotiations that are taking place. There is no such thing as a 'confidential' memorandum, and leakage always seems to occur. Thus, I would urge you not to put on paper anything relating to any of the work that you are doing...[unless] you know the recipient well enough to put at the top of the page 'PLEASE DESTROY AFTER READING.'
In 1974, after several Watergate conspirators had joined the Family, an LA Times columnist discouraged further inquiries into Washington's "underground prayer movement", i.e. the Fellowship: “They genuinely avoid publicity...they shun it.”
In 2002, Doug Coe denied that the Fellowship sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast, and a Fellowship employeed said, "there is no such thing as the Fellowship."
Former Republican Senator William Armstrong said the group has “made a fetish of being invisible.”
In the 1960s, when the organization first went "underground," the Fellowship began distributing, to involved members of Congress, confidential memos which stressed that “the group, as such, never takes any formal action, but individuals who participate in the group through their initiative have made possible the activities mentioned.”
Family Member and Senator Sam Brownback describes Family members' method of operation: “Typically, one person grows desirous of pursuing an action”—-a piece of legislation, a diplomatic strategy—-“and the others pull in behind.”  Indeed, Brownback has often joined with fellow Family members in pursuing legislation. For example, in 1999 he joined together with fellow Family members, Senators Strom Thurmond and Don Nickles to demand a criminal investigation of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and in 2005 Brownback joined with Family member Sen. Tom Coburn to promote the Houses of Worship Act.