Tag Archive: decision making

The Irrational Decision In (my) Ministry Leadership

For those of us who have committed our lives to serve Christ, we are susceptible to the irrational decision. But, in a good way, right?

We know Christ’s calling and direction for us (or our churches) may not line up with what culture says is rational. And those decisions even among other Christians may be considered atypical. What may completely align with God’s direction for you personally may seem irrational to others.

We have a limited view, God does not. God can use all means of people or circumstances to bring about His purposes.

Yet, even when we sense God’s clear leading it can still feel irrational. We hope God does His “crazy work” in others people’s lives and not ours. But what happens when after prayer, counsel and scripture reading the decision seems a little bit crazy?

Resignation and Rationality

Recently, after a decision my wife and I made, even my six-year-old daughter was questioning my rationality. And she went further to let me know if I acted on my decision, I was on my own.

To set the stage and update some of my readers who do not know…I’ve resigned my Executive Pastor position at Brentwood Baptist Church. Just more than six years ago God gave us Brentwood Baptist to call home. A place to serve, and a place to be served. This is a fantastic church to serve and I’ve had an incredible position in which to serve. Thus, the (seemingly) irrational decision. And to make it feel more irrational, well, I resigned without my next place of service determined.

So, back to my youngest daughter. We had told our older kids about the decision a couple weeks earlier, and now we were telling my seven-year-old son and his six-year-old sister Blake. After telling them about the decision to resign, Blake quipped, “Well, you have another job, right?”

After I tried to manage a response to her questioning of why I’d leave a good job without another one to go to, I could still tell maybe they weren’t getting the gravity of the decision. So, I tried to explain that this decision could mean a move away “from here.” She looked at me in the eyes, and said, “Welp, we’ll miss you, Dad.”

So what happens when you or your church feel God’s leading toward a decision that for all rational and practical reasons, just doesn’t seem right?

Safety in the Status Quo?

I’m a status quo guy. I like to have a plan. In fact, I like to have contingency plans for my plans. I’m not afraid of the unknown, per se. But I am afraid of entering an unknown when I don’t have plans to deal with the unknowns (okay, I’ll admit, I’m leery of unknowns).

My decision is requiring me to exercise faith muscles I haven’t had to use in some time.

But I’ve been here before. Both in my own personal pursuit of God and even in my position of serving a church. Things that seemed scary, and too big, and were fraught with “what ifs” ended up being a clearly designed path by a God who sees it all from an eternal perspective.

So, this blog post doesn’t have any “practical takeaways for everyday church leadership.” I’m not far enough into this faith step to try to articulate what I’m learning. Yet, I do know that God’s ways are not our ways and in some cases, God will ask us to trust Him more than our human rationality He created in us.

I encourage all of us who have stewardship of people and churches to lead reasonably, to lead rationally. But in a way that leaves room for God’s prompting toward irrational steps of faith.

A p.s. for inquiring minds: in early July I made a decision to resign. There was nothing dramatic to it. But simply a decision that reflected months of discernment. Since then, I’ve had the privilege to serve in my role as we worked out a transition plan for my work. This plan is now close to me handing off my “executive pastor duties” to other capable people. After that I will continue to serve the church in other ways for a period of time. Some of you may care to know what’s next. The answer, we don’t know. We’re asking God to provide clarity, and in the meantime, courageous faith. I love serving God in ministry and I’m hopeful for what’s ahead.
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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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Chasing Cool & Appeasing Church Members


This past Christmas, I did something many parents have done. We got a dog.

In many cases, this decision makes a family happy – but for us, it ended up being a regret. After multiple years of being asked by our children, I caved. It wasn’t without thought. I did my research. I chose wisely. But no amount of research or careful selection changed what I knew in my gut…a dog was not right for our family at that stage of life.

So less than 28 hours after bringing the dog home, we took him back –and all the supplies we’d purchased for him. It was not a “dad of the year” moment.

I’ve done and seen a similar thing in church ministry.

Incessant clamoring for a new ministry. “It’s the right ministry for our church.” “It will change lives.” “I’ll own it. I’ll find the volunteers. We don’t need budget money, we just need the space.”

And in response, someone in charge caves. They acquiesce. They say yes to wanting to be cool, or trendy – or they simply want the incessant asking to cease (albeit with a gnawing check in their spirit about its validity or rightness for the church).

Returning a dog is not the easiest task (all four of my children cried [even the two who were terrified of the dog]). But a less easy task is killing off a ministry. Even if it’s a ministry that proved it doesn’t belong. There’s always somebody emotionally connected. You can’t just take a ministry back to a pet shop and shamefully hand over the leash.

Ultimately, as a dad, I should’ve known better. It was my responsibility to make the best choice for my family. I was in the best position to see the ramifications of the dog-gone decision.

And as a church leader, you‘re typically the best person to make the call for your department, or your ministry team. You should be able to step away from the incessant noise, and forecast what the future of the ministry means for you and the church. Ultimately, the experience you’ve gained, and the prayer you put into making a decision should give you the best decision-making ability.

People will always be passionate about their ministry ideas. But you’re the person who can look over the whole landscape and determine if it’s the best ministry to begin at your church, at that time.

Some ideas you’ll say “yes” to. Some “no.” But in either case, you’ll have to get over not being popular with all your church members.

Our 28-hour dog was messy, excitable, and made my house and clothes instantly smell like… well, dog. He jumped on my one-year and three-year-old, which created a fearful reaction. I knew all this was coming. Yet I was tired of being asked, and I had a desire to make my kids happy. I caved. And ultimately, it was a regret – and it added unnecessary chaos to my home.

Don’t do this to your church. Have the courage to lead well and make the hard decision on the front end. As the Church, we have far too many important things to be engaged in other than un-doing a ministry we should’ve never started in the first place.



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