5 Principles for Making Better Decisions as a Ministry Leader

Posted by Aaron Buer on November 9, 2022

If there is one thing that will improve your leadership it’s making better decisions. Good decisions build trust with your staff and your board. Good decisions create opportunities and build toward a better future.

But, we all know the impact of bad decisions. And, as a leader, there’s nothing quite as frustrating as looking back on a decision with regret.  

So, how do we make better decisions in leadership? The most accurate and painful answer is that we learn to make better decisions by learning from bad decisions. 

There are some principles that can help us make good solid decisions while avoiding the pain of bad decisions. Here are a few decision-making principles that I try to live by.  

Let Your Values Drive Decisions

In my mind, the most strategic and consistent way to make good decisions is to let your values drive your decision making. If you have taken the time to define your personal and organizational values, you can let those values drive decisions. 

The alternative is a system where leaders make decisions based on personal preference, which is inconsistent and unpredictable, which leads to opinion-based decisions, which will create cultural problems in your staff.  

So, as you attempt to make good leadership decisions, ask yourself how your organizational values come into play.  


Use The Eisenhower Matrix

Aside from the interstate highway system, one of the legacies of President Eisenhower’s presidency is what we call the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s a process for making good decisions around task prioritization.  

I find this matrix to be helpful in deciding what to do and what not to do. The idea is to prioritize your tasks and opportunities based on two factors: urgency and importance.

Based on these two factors, you can decide whether you need to do the task now, schedule it for later, hand it off to someone else, or forget it.  

Below is an example of the matrix that I drew on my iPad. If you or someone you lead is struggling to prioritize tasks effectively, this can be a very helpful decision-making tool.  


Pros and Cons List

My dad is the ultimate pros and cons list guy. He drilled this into me throughout my years as a teenager and young adult. 

  • “Dad, I’m thinking about asking this girl out.” “Did you make a pros and cons list?”
  • “Dad, I can’t decide which college to choose.” “Did you make a pros and cons list?”
  • “Dad, I can’t decide if I should actually take this Physics class.” “Did you make a pros and cons list?”  

I’m telling you, he lives by the pros and cons list. Yes, it’s simple. Yes, it’s cliché. Yes, it’s obvious. Yes, it’s effective. It might sound overly simplistic but a pros and cons list for a decision is a great tool for making effective decisions.  


Action Priority Matrix

This tool is very helpful when making personal or team decisions about whether or not to pursue a project. The idea here is to evaluate a potential action based on two factors: impact and effort.

An action that is low effort and high impact is low hanging fruit—a quick win. An action that is high effort and high impact is a major project. An action that is low effort and low impact is a fill-in project—when you aren’t busy and have time.

Lastly, an action that is high effort and low impact is a thankless project.  You’ll put in a ton of effort and nobody will care.  

Maybe a few examples:

  • Launching a new campus: High effort and High impact 
  • Live-streaming your worship service: Low effort and High impact 
  • Email: Low effort and Low impact 
  • A one- time video project for your midweek Bible study that takes 40 hours to produce: High effort and Low Impact

Here’s another amazing drawing from my iPad.

I find the action priority matrix to be incredibly helpful in determining which and how many projects our church staff should pursue at any given time.  


Make Space

The last principle for good decision making is the one that is the least natural for me–making space to really think through a decision.  

I am a fast mover. I prefer to act intuitively and I like to be very busy. Something I’ve learned the hard way is that good decision making requires space—thinking space.  

One of my mentors has a phrase. He says, “I need to give that a good think.” In other words, he wants to contemplate and reflect on the impact of a decision. For me, this often looks like going for a walk.  

The question is, do you have enough space in your life to really think through decisions? Do you need to cut back on a few things?

Do you need to say no to a few opportunities so that you have the space to think and pray through decisions? These are all key factors in good leadership decisions.  

Wrap Up

My prayer for you this week is that you would make good decisions. It’s one of the most important tasks of leadership–and one of the greatest sources of impact in your role.

Topics: Advice

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