Leaders have to make decisions. Sometimes leaders are even paid to make decisions for a living. Most CEOs are not involved in the day-to-day execution of making products for their company. Instead, they are paid to make decisions about the future of the company. Even if you’re not a CEO-level leader, as a ministry leader you must still make decisions for the good of your Ministry Area, Group, or Team. Part of making good decisions is to avoid making bad ones. In her book, How to Decide, author Annie Duke specifically highlights a few different things that can cloud our judgment, leading us to make bad decisions.
One of the biggest obstacles to making a good decision, according to Duke, is resulting. Resulting occurs when we judge how good our decision was based upon the outcome (4). But sometimes the outcome of a decision can be good, even if the decision itself was not! For example, running a red light is not a good decision, even though you may have gotten through the intersection unscathed that time. The reverse is also true: sometimes you can make a good decisions but it turns out unfavorably. I have seen this played out in my own life. I decided to refinance our condo which would have saved us a good amount of money. Unfortunately, the process dragged on for over 6 months and ended in a rejection because the bank we happened to pick didn’t know what they were doing with Affordable Housing units like ours. Was the decision to refinance a bad one? No, it was not. It was a good decision. But things outside of my control turned the outcome sour. Life happens.
Therefore, when we make decisions for our ministries, we need to try to separate the decision in itself from the results. Take for instance your need for leaders or volunteers in your ministry. Rushing someone into a leadership role is never a good decision. Even if the person you place in that position ends up thriving and blessing the ministry, it is not wise to rush placing people into leadership. On the other hand, you may make a really good decision to start a ministry which meets a certain need, yet it may not take off. Maybe the need wasn’t as great as you originally thought, or maybe people just weren’t interested in attending something new. Sometimes bad things happen to good decisions.
Another obstacle to making a good decision is getting stuck with an inside view. An inside view is “the view of the world from inside your own perspective, your own experience, and your own beliefs” (126). You’ve probably experienced getting stuck with an inside view when you have seen self-destructive tendencies in others, but have been blind to them yourself…until someone pointed them out to you. The inside view skews our decision making because it makes us think that we’re omniscient, that we know everything. But such hubris will ultimately lead to making a bad decision. We don’t know everything! This is why Proverbs says, “In the abundance of counselors, there is victory” (11:24). Therefore, it is crucial to get an outside perspective on your decision.
How do we get outside perspectives when making decisions for our ministries, Groups, or Teams? It’s actually a lot simpler than you may realize:
- Read widely and outside your comfort zone. I naturally gravitate towards articles on the Bible and theology. But it’s helpful to read the Seeker Sensitive Church Growth guys, even if their theology has serious flaws. If you’re a ministry that trends toward discipleship, consider reading things from a “missional” perspective, and vice-versa.
- Talk to multiple people about your decision. Most of the time before I make a decision for one of my ministries, I will bounce the idea off of Dan and Dennis. I’ll also usually float it past my wife, to get a woman’s perspective on the issue. It is often crucial to loop in and talk to the key stakeholders as well.
- Pretend you are coaching another person who comes to you with the same problem you’re having. We are soooo good at seeing things clearly in others than in ourselves. So you can try to use this ability by pretending that another person is coming to you and asking for advice about a decision. What advice would you give another person? Ok, now follow that!
The first part of growing in making good decisions is to avoid making bad ones. If you can recognize resulting and getting stuck in the inside view of your decisions, then you will be well on your way to making good decisions for yourself and your ministry.