Tag Archive: collaboration

A Simple Tool for Measuring Idea Support

How do you know when your idea is gaining consensus within the group? In groups, there are usually two kinds of people – those who express their thoughts without prompting, and those who rarely express their thoughts.  If you’re not careful, you’ll allow those who do speak to speak on behalf of those who don’t, and you may start believing that the ideas of those who spoke up are reflective of the whole group.

And then there are times when most everyone speaks up. You exchange ideas and opinions about a new idea or initiative and yet, you can’t quite determine where the group is with it. For it? Against it? Indifferent?

When I arrived at Brentwood Baptist Church the church’s senior leadership team used a simple tool to quickly ascertain how a group felt about an idea. By simply holding up a finger to represent a number on a scale, you could get a snapshot of how the group felt about an idea.

In our case, Jim Baker would scribble the following words on the white board:

Love it – 5

Like it – 4

Live with it – 3

Leary of it – 2

Loathe it – 1

Then all at the same time, each individual in the meeting would hold up their hand and represent their feeling about the idea with a certain number of fingers. We’d total the group’s finger count, divide by the number of those voting, and get a snapshot of support for the idea.

The vote average will come out 3.7 or 2.1, or some days, 4.9. (This is usually when we ask questions like, “Are you in favor of adding vacation days for our staff?”)

I use this tool from time to time in meetings I lead, and when I do, it can usually tell me if…

  • The idea already has traction
  • The idea is going to require more talk, work, and support gaining
  • The idea is Dead On Arrival

I’ve written before about the importance of you as a meeting leader establishing whether you’re looking for consensus or simply asking for input. If you employ this voting tool, I suggest you let your group know how and why you’re using their votes. (You can read the consensus blog here.)

It’s a simple tool that’ll allow you real-time results during a meeting to gauge how far along an idea or concept is from getting instituted or going away.

I hope this blog post gets a 3+.

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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.


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Hard Lessons Learned the Hard Way

He’s been the pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church for over 20 years. He’s been a part of a lot of awesome things God has done here and he’s also taken the opportunity to learn along the way. Below is his description of a hard lesson learned that has freed him up to be the pastor God called him to be. I’m thankful for @MikeGlenn‘s guest post on my blog. You can read Mike’s blog here.

Hard Lessons Learned the Hard Way

“Mike, it’s not that you don’t help us when you’re in these meetings. You hurt us.”

Yes, that was said to me. And believe it or not, it was a friend who said that to me. Even more, he’s still my friend. He’s my friend because he loved me enough to tell me the truth. And even though I didn’t like hearing it, I knew my friend was right.

I don’t have the gifts of administration—none of them. I’m creative, visionary, and future-oriented. I can see where the culture and church are going to intersect in the future and how the church needs to prepare for the coming realities.

Now, what else have I told you about myself? I don’t have a clue how to actually get any of this done. If I don’t have someone around me to work through the details, then nothing gets done.

What’s more, when I try to attend to details, I grow bored and frustrated very quickly. In fact, if I’m trapped in the minutiae of working out the implementation of an idea, I quit. My house, my office, my whole life are full of great, but unfinished ideas.

Here’s what this means. I have a person, or rather people, around me who have the gifts I don’t. I need these people around me—those who know me, those I can trust—to break down my ideas into doable next steps.

Not only do I have to have them around me, I have to let them do their work. Once the idea has been handed off, I have to have the self-discipline, indeed the humility, to realize that if my idea is going to happen, someone else will make it successful.

This isn’t all bad. People who have the gifts of administration love meetings, setting budgets, and aligning strategies. I’m glad they’re happy. It gives me more time to think about the future.

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