Making good decisions
Decision making is an inescapable task for ministry leaders. Decision making is one of the things that distinguishes us as leaders. In the end, it is the quality of our decisions that determines the success or failure of our leadership.
MANY OF OUR DECISIONS can be made as part of a decision making body such as an eldership or church council. There are times, however, when the responsibility to make a decision cannot be passed to anybody else. The leader alone has to make the decision. To quote the plaque on former US President Harry Truman’s desk, “The Buck Stops Here”.
Here are some guiding principles for how a leader can make good decisions.
1. Clarify the vision God has given you.
The vision God has given us for our ministry gives perspective and parameters to our decisions. Clarifying our vision helps us to define what is in the vision and what is not in the vision. Decisions are generally easier to make when we know where we’re going and how we’re getting there.
2. Understand your own style of leadership.
Another principle is to understand our natural decision-making style. There is no ideal or perfect method. Some leaders have a more intuitive (gut feel) style of decision making, whereas others display a more deductive (or process) style. Both styles need to develop complementary skills. Intuitive leaders need to learn process, and deductive leaders need to develop intuition.
In the general tone of our life and leadership, we need to foster a prayerful attitude and practice the daily discipline of prayer. We are encouraged in Scripture to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6–7). As leaders, we should specifically pray for wisdom and discernment in our decisions (James 1:5–8; Prov. 4:7; 2 Chron. 1:10; 1 Kings 3:9). Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.
4. Reflect in Scripture.
Once again, in the general tenor of our life, we need to engage with Scripture every day. Aside from reading and meditating, we need to reflect on our decisions in the light of Scripture. Is there a specific principle that relates to the decision? Are there stories or teaching in Scripture that give insights into the decision? Is the decision consistent with the teaching of Scripture? What does the Bible say?
5. Clarify exactly what you need to decide.
To make wise and informed decisions we need to know exactly what we have to decide. To understand a problem is the biggest part of solving the problem.
6. Be informed about the whole dimension of the decision.
Find out as much information as possible about the details. If necessary, seek technical or professional information. Do research or focused reading. Be inquisitive. Listen objectively. Ask probing questions. Seek clarification on grey areas.
7. Consult other experienced leaders.
Another practical idea is to confidentially discuss the whole scenario with other experienced pastors and leaders both inside and outside your ministry. Those who have been through similar challenges will bring an invaluable perspective.
After working through principles 1–7, it is time to decide. Before we implement or communicate our decision, we should let it settle in our heart until we have peace with it.
9. Communicate the decision.
Now it is time for us to inform the relevant people in the appropriate order.
10. Implement the decision.
Initiate and organise a step-by-step plan to implement the decision.
We won’t get it right all the time. Our decision making capacity is an ongoing challenge and process. The Lord gives us the incredible resources of prayer, His word, His Spirit, other leaders, books and our past experience to help us make better decisions.
International Director of World Outreach since January 2017.
Bruce has been married to Fiona since 1983 and lives in Melbourne. They have three grown children and one granddaughter.