Jacob is the senior pastor at a church in Phoenix that averages about 140 in attendance. This includes about 110 adults and 30 kids. The church’s’ worship auditorium seats about 125. The growth isn’t explosive but has been solid at about 8-9% a year. However, it has started to decline in the past two years to 5-7% growth. They need a vision infusion and it’s time to go to two services, but Jacob is having difficulty making the decision.
Jacob is getting resistance from two board members and several long-term attenders who are concerned that the church will lose the wonderful sense of community and friendliness that the people love. He is concerned that no one will like the new service time slot, and that the change will rock the boat of this otherwise happy church.
The problem is that if he doesn’t make this move, it is near certain the church will stall out. By intentional leadership or by inactive default, Jacob will make a decision. But he’s struggling and can’t seem to make the intentional call. Jacob said he doesn’t know how to decide.
We all know what this is like. You may feel this is a simple decision. But remember, for Jacob, this is scary. This is a big deal. What big deal decision are you facing?
Decision-making is an essential skill for any courageous leader. It’s non-negotiable for making progress. We must all face fears and insecurities and take risks. Risks are always played out by the decisions we make.
Lets break it down. There are two key factors in decision-making.
- Accuracy, that is making the right decision at the right time.
- Speed, that is making the decision as quickly as reasonably possible.
The first factor involves making the right decision. This is an obvious desire for all leaders, but timing matters, which leads to the second part. Making the decision as quickly as prudence will allow. Pastors often know the right decision, but simply don’t make it. They get stuck and progress stalls out. They often trade progress for being busy.
What prevents a decision?
Again, its two factors and they run parallel with the first two things I mentioned. One is objective and deals with information. The other is subjective and deals with wisdom.
In question form, it looks like this:
- Are you not making the decision because you need more information?
- Are you not making the decision because you are not sure what to do?
These two dynamics are entirely different and your answer has a huge impact on how you get to a decision. They are so different and each one leads you to a different path to get to your decision.
Gathering more information is a finite process and can be done with relative speed. You don’t need an exhaustive amount of information to make a good decision, you simply need enough of the right information. This information is rarely difficult to gather. Wisdom is different, it’s more subjective, but it is not illusive. Your best advisors with you in thought and prayer will usually get it right!
It is fear and or insecurity that shuts it down. When you know you have all the information you need, and your wise counsel gives a green light, make the decision and take action!
It is easier for me to write this than for you or me to make a tough decision. So let me offer several good questions to be helpful in the decision-making process.
5 Good Questions:
- Does it matter?
I can’t tell you how much time I’ve wasted on deciding whether or not a training meeting should be on Saturday morning or Monday night! And I’ve wasted more time on choosing colors for a brochure, what restaurant I eat at, or a title for an article — like this one! Get honest with yourself about the decisions you spend too much time on that are not important. And remember, if you make a decision and no one gets upset, you just made a decision that doesn’t matter.
- What are the risks?
Any important decision you make has a risk factor. Risk is inescapable. It’s at the core of real leadership. You can’t make progress without taking risks. Write down the risks you see in play. Pray and seek wise counsel. Are there other alternatives to lessen the risk? (Not get rid of it, but lower it.)
Evaluating the risk also requires the incredibly important factor of writing down the potential results of not taking the risk. Not taking the risk often seems safer in the moment, but in the long run, it is often disastrous for the church.
- Do you know all that can be known?
Have you done all your homework? Is the research complete? What is left that you need to know? Can you get this information on your own or do you need help? Do you need to hire a contract consultant to help you accurately gather all the information you need? I have been asked “how does a leader know when he or she has enough?” Simply asking the question will help you know that answer.
When you know you have enough. Make a mental declaration, or a public one to your key leaders that “we have all the info we need.” It’s time to decide, so do we have a sense of the right decision? Do we have the wisdom we need? Again, like information, if you don’t have the wisdom, get it from other sources. God lacks no wisdom; it is available if you ask.
- Does the decision require soak time?
There are a few decisions that even when you have all the information and wisdom, you still need some time to let it marinade. My practical advice is that you usually don’t need long to decide. Sometimes a few days, maybe a few weeks, on rare occasions a few months. Take the time you need to soak and pray. Make sure you know God’s mind, but your decision is not a mystery to God and if it’s about His work, He’s not likely to withhold from you. If it’s an issue of timing, you can still make the decision and put a date on when you activate the decision.
- What can you do to increase your confidence?
Confidence is the bottom line in decision-making. You have your information, and you know what to do. But you don’t make the move. Perhaps you need to release a staff member (or key volunteer) from the team. No one wants to do that and we all fear the potential fall out to some degree. Yet, it is often the case that not making the decision is actually worse. If you lack confidence, get quiet time with God. Be still before Him. Lay the information and wisdom before Him and ask for courage. He grants it! Think about it. It’s His church, His problem, and His Kingdom. You are His servant carrying out His will, why would He withhold the necessary courage!
God may just speak it into you like He did for Joshua. No matter how it happens, good leaders rise to the occasion to make tough decisions. That’s my prayer for you as I write.
What decision do you need to make and take action on today?