Posted in Leadership

Being Outside the Information Loop

Everyone likes to be included.

Most people want to be informed.

You’ve likely been left outside an information loop you would’ve liked to be in. And you’ve likely had to make a decision about who’s in and who’s out with information you had to share.

Those who are left out of the loop can feel hurt. Your choice of intentionally leaving someone out of the loop can be absolutely correct, but you must be aware that being left out may make people vulnerable. If it happens repetitively or without reason, they may distrust you or possibly even leave your team.  Your decision to bring someone in or leave them out is an important decision.

Since it’s important, here are a few reminders for the loop-makers and also a few for those feeling hurt or vulnerable who are outside of the loop.

Before you get too upset you’re being left out of the loop — consider:

  1. Don’t assume or presume on those making the information-sharing decisions.
  2. Ask yourself: Does this person who’s leaving me out have a habit of keeping me in the dark or deceiving me?
  3. Check your motives. Why are you bothered you’re not in the loop?
  4. Have you told your boss or those you work with that you’re busy or overwhelmed? If so, they may be trying to protect your time.
  5. When you have been in the loop before, have you ever shared the information with those who it wasn’t meant for?
  6. Remember, the loop-makers may be trying to limit collateral damage to others, or there even may be legal issues at stake. The choice to share or withhold information could be out of their control.

When determining who’s in your information loop — consider:

  1. Be consistently trustworthy and transparent. That way, when you do have to withhold information from a person(s), they’ll assume the best about your reasoning.
  2. Be willing to talk about the process for decision-making, even if not the details.
  3. Give people a heads up… “You may hear about some things going on, and while I can’t talk about the details, I know it’s a big deal – and as it impacts you, I’ll make sure you’re in the know as I can.”
  4. Be consistent. People will be okay with certain informational boundaries, as long as you’re consistent about level of leadership who gets it. If you choose to share information based on who sits near you at lunch or who has favor with you lately, that inconsistency may be meet with a lack of trust.
  5. Have a philosophy and method that dictates your communication groupings that makes sense to onlookers. Each time you have to limit the sharing of information, the determination of those persons or groups should have an objective pathway of determination.
  6. When you can, throw out some substantive “inside information.” Maybe it doesn’t totally relate to directly to them, but giving your team an inside look at information will go a long way. The information must still be appropriate, and it may not impact their job at all – but hearing it will make them feel more involved.


In a moment of frustration, I once quipped to a person who was feeling left out of the loop, “This information is above your pay grade.” (Since I still feel guilty, public exposure on this incident via my blog makes me feel better.) I shouldn’t have said that. True, the information was beyond what the person’s role warranted – but I didn’t follow my suggested steps for how to communicate that well. So, don’t be that me. Be better than me. Whether in or out of the information loop, be considerate of how the other may feel, and act accordingly.

Continue Reading

Coping with the weight of ministerial decisions

This is part two of a two-part post. For part one, click, The Weight of the Ministerial Buck

When the pressure of your decisions feel overwhelming, here are some relief strategies:

  1. Limit your Monday morning quarterbacking

President Truman not only said “the buck stops here,” but he also referenced the concept of avoiding the Monday morning quarterback. He knew all decisions would be questioned under a new day’s light. Sometimes with information that wasn’t available at the time the decision had to be made. Monday morning quarterbacking can make any leader question their decisions, so stop subjecting yourself to it.

If you made the best decision you could with the information you had at that time, then give yourself a break, and don’t second guess yourself.

Due to ice and the threat of more bad weather, I decided to close the offices and evening activities at our church recently (impacting several hundred people). That day, the day of the closure, sometime after lunch the sun began shining and the snow and ice were melting like Olaf in spring. The Monday morning quarterback said closure was the wrong decision, but at 6:30am that morning, when the decision had to be made, it was the prudent decision.

Learning for next time is one thing, but interrogating yourself will put unneeded weight on yourself.

  1. Be okay with the explanation of Acts 15, “It seemed good to us and the holy spirit.”

If that’s the case, which you felt in agreement with the Holy Spirit, then be resolute and move on. When you have been in the presence of Christ, and gave the decision its due consideration with prayerful thinking, then trust the decision. You’re not God (and don’t buy into the lie people expect you to be).

  1. Take heart that you’re watching out for the whole

Some decisions, when only considering one person, aren’t best. But when the same decision has in consideration many people, the whole of the group, or church, it seems different, and the best course of action. I’ll assume you want the best for the whole, and acting for the whole can cause individuals some heartache. While we’re called to individuals, they’ll be times when your leadership role requires you to look out for the whole, and you have to find comfort your decision was the best decision for the larger group.

  1. Learn to be okay with little appreciation

If you’re looking for someone to come alongside of you after each hard decision, and tell you that you’re a great leader, and they appreciate your decisiveness, it’s probably not going to happen. Sometimes only the leader(s) sees the reasons behind a decision, and appreciate the decision’s value. You may be appreciated for other things, but rarely do people flock to applaud tough decisions. Don’t connect your value as a decision-maker to the amount of appreciation a decision receives.


Leaders make decisions. Leaders rightly feel the weight of those decisions. You can’t escape this, but you can manage it. The next time the weight of a decision you made feels heavy, see if one of these four strategies will bring some weight-relief.



Continue Reading

The Weight of the Ministerial Buck

Part 1 of a 2 part post

President Truman had a now famous sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here!”

It’s highly unlikely my readership includes a current or past U.S. President (although if so, feel free to contact me directly), but that doesn’t mean you and I don’t know what the “buck” feels like on our desk.

The weight of the proverbial buck is heavy.

I’m sure it’s heaviest for the President and those whose decisions impact many. But ministers, whether at the top of their churches org chart or not, have a certain weightiness related to their ministerial decisions. Those decisions have spiritual ramifications because they don’t only impact the people inside the church, but must also reflect the identity of the “Church” (the bride of Christ) to the people outside it.

When you’re faced with these decisions, having a decision making process can help. In this post I’ve recorded some check-points or filters that may be helpful – and in my next post, I’ll discuss how to cope with the pressure that comes along with the weighty decisions you’re making.

Decision making filters —

Don’t feel pressure to make immediate decisions. Unless necessary, take some time and think gray (a topic I’ve previously blogged on). Time often weeds out non-essential decisions, or if nothing else, provides valuable perspective on the essential ones. Involve others. You may be the sole decision maker, but you don’t have to reach your decision in a vacuum. Whenever possible, get input from others. Ask those you consider to be subject-matter experts, or people with a proven track record of good judgments. When you do involve others, be fair with them by making sure they know what their role is and isn’t in the decision making process. (I’ve explained more about this important step and communication in a previous blog.) Unilateral decisions are over-rated…involve others.

Have a theology informing your decisions. I’ve been taught that I need to form a theological or philosophical stance on subjects effecting major decisions. Although this can be difficult and take time, many, if not most major ministry decisions should have a theology informing them. In other words, check Scripture. God has chosen to share truth through it, and understanding what He says about a particular subject (ex. church discipline) will often help you make a better decision. Not too many years ago, I was the point-person for dealing with a really difficult person in the church. This person was harming the church’s vitality, and I needed to decide whether to deny them from being at our church. The gravity of the decision hit me, and I realized I didn’t need to be making a one-off decision informed by own thinking. I couldn’t just look at one scripture verse and say I grasped all its implications. The decision demanded a deep understanding of God related to the situation.

Be equipped with God’s presence. The good news is God is always present. But when making heavy decisions, there’s something very settling about spending intentional time with God in preparation.  If you haven’t recently spent time before God in prayer and reading, you’re not ready to make your best decision. Your decision should come as overflow from God’s guidance received through prayer and in your Bible reading.

Recently, I was asked to give an answer to a question. Not just any question, but one that required my highest spiritual maturity. Although I’d spent time in prayer that day, I hadn’t prayed much regarding the topic I was asked about. And I thought my response (and ultimately, my decision on the matter) needed more. So I replied by admitting, “I haven’t spent enough time in prayer about this, so I can’t weigh in at this point.” Maybe not every decision, but especially the weighty ones require recent and substantive guidance from God and His Word.

For those times when you had no idea the decision point was coming, and it demands you make a decision quickly… trust God. Trust what you’ve learned from God previously. Dip into the reservoir you’ve built up. Many times, this is a moment you realize His power is made perfect in (your) weakness.

Make sure the buck belongs on your desk. There are times when you don’t have to be the decision maker, because the buck shouldn’t have made it to your desk. Abdication of a decision doesn’t always mean passing the buck. Sometimes, you’re not the best person to make the decision. Sometimes others don’t want the pressure, so they send the issue to you. Slow down and evaluate if the buck belongs on your desk, and then act accordingly.

Become friends with policy and precedent. Relying on these two things will not only save you time, but will often help you reach the right decision. Policies are developed to avoid making the same decision over and over. If I’ve developed a policy, I took time and thought through the impact of the policy, considering it from multiple angles. So if a similar decision comes up, I refer to the policy. Why use personal power when you can use already established institutional power? Don’t spend time considering a decision again when a thoughtful decision has already been made via a policy.

A policy makes it less about the personality and power of the person making the decision, and more about the predetermined course of action the group (church) has already made.

As for precedent – it’s not perfect, but it’s a good guide. Precedent can always be overruled when changing circumstances dictate, but a good decision maker knows what’s been done in the past and what happened as a result. When I took my current job, things were in a really good place. Good decisions had been made by my predecessor. So when I was presented with decision points, my first question back to the person was, “What have we done in the past, and is there any reason that course of action wouldn’t suffice again?”


Next time you’re faced with a heavy buck, revisit this post, and consider these filters for making the decision that’s reached your desk. My next post will deal with coping with decision-making pressures and outcomes.


Continue Reading