Leaders decide and take action. This is one of the key characteristics of the role and work of a leader. Before doing that, however, an even more important step has to be taken – a leader must face reality.
Facing reality includes assessing the current situation and having a sense about the place towards which one should be moving. Without such purposeful reflection and evaluation, it will be hard to decide between seemingly similar choices; it will feel like a roll of the dice. Does this sound familiar?
Triage-Moment Decisions and Their Fallout
In rare instances a Christian ministry leader may be forced into needing to make a quick decision. But most often our situations are not like those of doctors in the emergency room, whose work thrives on quick thinking in triage moments.
And yet, many leaders with years of experience in ministry will tell you that some of their biggest regrets come from a wrong decision that was made too quickly. They admit they should have taken time to think more and to consider four things: the decision, its timing, its execution and how it will affect those involved. Not doing so results in one of the painful lessons of leadership – unnecessarily causing hurt in others or in the ministry by a decision that was not well thought out.
Here is the healthy pattern: wise and decisive action is preceded by facing reality and holistic evaluation.
The Way of Wisdom
The point of this article is not to dive deeper into these steps, but to suggest one thing a leader can do to avoid a crash when making decisions. That one thing is this: rather than facing decisions and making them on the go (a triage approach), embrace your role as a thoughtful leader (a sage approach) and make personal retreat a normal part of your life as a leader.
Of course this is a sneaky way of getting you to consider making retreat and solitude a part of your leader-life, but it is probably one of the most practical reasons!
By doing this you will create a habit of thoughtful and slow reflection in quiet spaces, away from the noise of many voices and temptations which might speak to your own ego or personal preferences. Over time you will learn to avoid quick decisions altogether (because the actual need for that is quite rare) and those around you will realize that you always take time to think things over. You will develop one of the most prized leader capacities of all: thinking. You will also see a noticeable reduction in your own stress and less anxiety in the community that you lead. It will permeate the leadership culture around you, and before you know it, others will follow your lead. Even in how you think and make decisions, you will be influencing others.
Healthy Thinking and Evaluation
To do this you will need an understanding of what it means to face reality, as well as a model of evaluation. You will also need an anchor – a place and time when you regularly focus on thinking. LeaderSource has models of Transformational Thinking as well as tools for evaluation. You can use these resources to expand your own thinking and challenge yourself when making decisions.
For example, one of the healthy thinking styles is “a passion for God’s highest.” When faced with several possible choices, it can be tempting to take the path of least resistance or one that will be popular or gain immediate results. But when you face God in your place of thoughtful retreat and present these things to Him as Lord, as you should, He might show you that the harder path is His highest, or the slower one, or the one that gives others more honor.
And when it comes to evaluation, you might need, for example, to make a choice for the next step in your church’s growth: should we start more Bible study groups or should we do evangelism training? Both are competencies needed in many churches. But as you think about leading the church into a more holistically healthy model you might realize what is really needed is a deeper sense of community and love. You begin to see that through a community filled with love, more people will be touched for Jesus than either of the two proposed ministries.
Both of these decisions came through purposeful, holistic, biblical thinking.
How Does It Happen?
It is clear that this does not just happen automatically in most of our lives. We need a place, a time, and intention. By doing so, a leader will much more clearly face reality and properly evaluate the choices faced. This kind of retreat and reflection involves stopping from other work (this is the hardest step for most leaders), prayer, Bible study, worship, reflection, and writing down ideas in a notebook.
The most exciting part of this? It is a grand opportunity for the leader to grow closer in a walk with God, who has revealed His desire to be involved intimately in all of our ways: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”
Ultimately, not following the teaching of Proverbs 3:5-7 is what causes crashes in our decisions. This kind of planned and purposeful retreat, reflection, and evaluation is honoring to God and those we lead and is one of the most important tasks you can do to be a healthier leader.
- Where and when could you go for personal retreat to think, pray, study, and be with God on a regular basis, especially to bring Him the decisions you are facing? Brief 60-120 minute sessions or retreats of several days could both be part of a plan.
- Do you have a grasp of Transformational Thinking models or holistic evaluation?
- How could you help your church be more purposeful in thinking as leaders?