How To Make Better Decisions In Ministry

I hate making the wrong decision.

It makes me look dumb and it sets the organization back.

It usually costs money and erodes trust in leadership.

And yet, even with the best of intentions, I still make the wrong call from time to time. I’m sure you can relate.

I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time on trying to understand why a bad decision happened.

Sometimes I’m too hard on myself but often, I believe there is wisdom in exploring the “why” of a bad decision.

My reflections have led to me to this maxim:

Good people with good intentions make bad decisions because of bad information.

Sure, there are other factors, but most of the time, when we make a bad call, it wasn’t because our heart wasn’t in the right place or because we aren’t that bright.

It’s because we didn’t have or didn’t listen to the information we needed to make the right decision.

So, how do you get the good information that you need to make better decisions? I have a few ideas.

1. Slow Down

Most of my bad decisions happen because of the speed in which they are made.

Something that I’ve learned in leadership is that speed is often dangerous.

We have a phrase in our church,

“The pace is hot!”

This is usually a red flag.

Why?

Because when the pace is hot there is a strong likelihood that you’re about to make a poor decision.

I’m guessing you can think of a few times where this has happened to you.

The problem with speed is that it reduces the time and space for processing, critiquing and planning.

And, it is exactly processing, critiquing and planning that leads us to the good information we need to make good decisions.

Time after time in my ministry career, speed has led to a bad decision. And, it usually is a bad decision about implementing a great idea without fully processing it.

I’ve found it is much better to put off implementing a great idea until it has been fully processed, even if that means waiting until next fall, next year’s Christmas service, or even if it means reposting the job and waiting for the right person.

If you want to make better decisions, slow down the process.

2. Ask More Questions

If there is one thing I’m working on right now as a leader, it is asking questions.

I’m reading through Multipliers for the second time and one of the key strategies for becoming a multiplying leader is to ask questions rather than provide answers.

Asking more questions is important for many reasons, but particularly for making better decisions.

In order to make good decisions, you need good information and good information comes through perspective.

How do you get perspective?

By asking good questions.

Four times a year, our senior staff gathers for a strategic conversation where we evaluate our situation and refocus our goals.

These all-day strategic meetings are 75% perspective and 25% decisions.

In other words, we spend 75% of our time asking questions and gaining perspective and 25% of our time making decisions about where we want to go and who we want to become.

We make zero decisions until we have gained perspective on where we are.

75% perspective and 25% deciding is a good rule of thumb when it comes to making good decisions.

If you want to make better decisions, ask more questions.

3.Culture of Trust

One of the enemies of good decisions is a culture of fear.

Here’s why: Leaders don’t always have the information they need.

The information they need lies with the people closest to the issue.

The real question is this: Will the people closest to the issue share the critical information that only they possess?

Well, that depends on whether they feel valued and whether or not they trust the leaders.

In other words, they will only share the critical information if your organization has a culture of trust.

How do you know?

Well, have you heard any of the following lately?

  1. No, I’m not going to speak up. Nobody will listen to me.
  2. Yeah right! I’m not going to say that. I’m just a janitor.
  3. The last time someone challenged that idea they got yelled at.
  4. Yeah, I tried to share my ideas with him once before. Not doing that again.
  5. I can’t say that. I’ll probably get fired!
  6. Bill spoke up about that and now he’s out of the inner circle.

These statements all betray a culture of fear.

When a culture of fear exists in your organization, you will not be able to access the critical good information needed to make good decisions.

Why? Because leaders don’t always know what they need to know and they can only access that information from the people under their care when there is a culture of trust.

And how do you transform a culture of fear into a culture of trust?

Well, it’s not easy but it can be done.

We’ve made the transition in our church and here are a few ideas…

A culture of trust is crucial to making good decisions because good decisions are made with good information that only those closest to the issues possess.

Wrap Up

Wouldn’t it be great if we could make better decisions more often?

I believe we can if we slow down, ask more questions and build a culture of trust.

I hope this has been helpful. I’d love to hear your ideas on this topic.

Feel free to share or ask a question in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

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