4 Tips for Making Good Church Leadership Decisions

Posted by Aaron Buer on July 23, 2020

Recently, we announced our plan for reopening services.

I thought it was a good plan.

It seemed to accommodate everyone.

It was prayed over, debated, and amended.

I thought, “this is a good plan; our people will appreciate this.”  

We made a video to communicate the plan.

The message was clear, and the tone was right.

We posted it to Facebook, and...the comments were a warzone.  

Should we reopen or not? Is COVID-19 a threat or a passing virus? Should we wear a mask or not?

During this season, you can’t make everyone happy. Have you felt this?

This has been the most challenging leadership season I have experienced.

Conditions change weekly, information is confusing, and people are emotionally reacting to everything.  

So, how do you make good decisions right now?

It’s tough!

Here’s the process I’ve been following, which I hope will help you as well.

Avoid Reacting

When an attendee calls and complains about how you are filming your online service, that’s a loud voice, but it’s not the only voice.  

When a hostile comment appears on your church Facebook page, that’s a loud voice, but it’s not the only voice. 

It’s very easy to react to loud voices and make decisions based on the negative energy we are experiencing.  

I have a bad habit of reacting to negative voices and making poor decisions.

Perhaps the wisest thing we can do in this season is to slow down and listen to more voices.

Make sure that the opinions you are hearing are accurate and representative.  

Also, forcing yourself to slow down the speed of your decisions can help make better decisions.

If you struggle with making reactive decisions, commit to never make an important decision in the moment.

Create space to process and clarify your thinking.  

To make good decisions, we must avoid reacting.  

Debate Honestly

Perspective matters when making decisions, and one of the wisest perspectives you can adopt is this: “I’m not the smartest person in the room.”

It’s humility.

It’s appreciating the experience, perspective, and wisdom of other leaders.  

Especially in a season like this, I believe it’s unwise to make a crucial decision without inviting debate.

There are two critical reasons for this.  

First, you might be wrong.

You might not have all the information.

You might not have fully thought through every contingency or possible solution.

Other people will help you see alternate perspectives. 

Second, listening and inviting debate will generate buy-in from others, even if you don’t agree with their position or choose their advice.

Most people don’t have to win every time, but they do need to be heard.

Inviting debate from other team members is a way of communicating value.

It shows strong leadership, which your team will appreciate.  

Choose A Direction

What I dislike most about making decisions during this season is there are very few clear right answers.

Everything is confusing, and the way forward is murky.

Also, there isn’t a playbook.

I haven’t seen any classic textbooks on leading a church during a global pandemic.

If you have one, send it my way!  

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s possible to delay decisions because you’re waiting for the right answer.

Well, it’s probably not coming.

You need to make the best decision you can with the data you have available.

Pray about it. Listen to others. Debate it. Make a decision. Then, choose a direction and go with it.

Consensus is almost impossible right now.

Making everyone happy is unrealistic.

What is needed is clear leadership.

“This is what we are going to do and why. Here is where we are going and how.”

Hold everything loosely because these aren’t forever decisions.

We are deciding for now.

A year ago, we were making decisions that would set direction for years to come.

Now, with how our environment is continually changing, we are making decisions for next month and then reevaluating, and that’s okay.  

Communicate and Listen 

Just as important as the decision is the way you communicate it.

If you communicate poorly, a great decision can become a bad decision.

Our senior pastor says the “how” of a decision is just as important as the “what”.

In other words, how you communicate will make or break the decision in real life.  

As you communicate a decision, here’s the most important thing to consider: You have been processing this decision for much longer than the people who will be impacted by the decision.

For example, if you’ve been debating whether to reopen services, you’ve probably been thinking about it for weeks.

You’ve been discussing it with your staff and board for days, and you’ve mentally and emotionally grappled with the decision.

You’ve come to peace with your decision and feel good about it.

You’ve thought through all the factors. 

Your congregation hasn’t processed any of that.

They will react emotionally.

You reacted emotionally weeks ago.

It’s helpful to remember that people need time to process decisions—to consider the positives, and in some cases, mourn what losses this decision might mean for them. 

Think of it like a race.

You’re at mile 20 because of all the processing you’ve already done.

The people receiving the information are at mile two.

You can’t expect them to react the same way as you at that moment, because you’re way ahead of them.  

The real task of leadership during critical changes is to walk with people through the process of adapting and mourning.

This requires extraordinary patience and a willingness to slow things down and listen.

Wrap Up

This season is incredibly challenging for leaders.

Decisions are so hard.

I’m hopeful the process I’ve shared will help you in some way as you attempt to lead your church and make wise decisions.

Thanks for reading.

Topics: Advice

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