Is your decision-making process fair?
When faced with making a decision that is complex, divisive or controversial, some councils worry only about getting the end result right. They think: what is the most God-honoring solution to the challenge we face?
Obviously, councils should be (most) concerned with discerning God-honoring solutions. However, it is possible to focus so much on finding the elusive “perfect” answer that you fail to appreciate the importance of the people and process that will generate and live out the answer.
Councils do well to ask two questions about their team and their process at the outset of any significant discernment process. In our last article, we looked at the first question: are we listening to God? Here, we look at the second question: Is your decision-making process fair?
Leadership in a Fallen World: Well-meaning Misuses of Power
The norm in our society is for the powerful in any institution to bend the rules of process to ensure their preferred outcome. Shamefully, church assemblies are not so different. We, too, have strongly preferred outcomes. And sometimes, we can subtly structure decision-making such that contrary voices are marginalized. So long as we arrive at the right outcome, the end justifies the means.
So I’ll make a motion to end debate, confident “my side” has the votes, in order to ensure no complexifying or contrary voices are heard. Or maybe I’ll nominate a fellow office-bearer for council president, not because they are spiritually-mature or a trustworthy facilitator (in fact, they might be quite spiritually immature and a reliably polarizing voice) but because I know their views on issues align with my own. Or, sometimes, I’ll allow ambiguity about a decision to persist, knowing that if we clarified and communicated our decision-making process or our decision, it’s inadequacy would be exposed.
In all of these situations, being complicit in an unfair process requires very little effort. How contrary, though, all these subtle actions are to the life of a disciple of Christ! These actions do not express the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5) or demonstrate caution about selfish ambition or vain conceit (Philippians 2). They are more in keeping with life “in the flesh” than life “in the Spirit” (Romans 8).
Wise Practices for Redeeming Leadership
One of the great opportunities of spiritually-wise leaders is to align their decision-making process in ways that embody the Christian virtues we aspire to practice and frequently espouse. How can our decision-making process reflect...
- our trust in God above our trust in ourselves?
- our love of neighbor?
- our humility before God and each other?
- our interdependence as the body of Christ?
Can the very way we decide reflect our commitment to “bear with one another in love” (Colossians 3) or “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ?” (Ephesians 5)?
The truth is, the way we treat each other while we make decisions is just as important to our witness as the decision itself.
One of the best ways to align your decision-making process with your faith commitments is to evaluate your process according to the three common pitfalls of decision-making: rush, hush and mush.
Your process could be too fast (rush). It could neglect to listen deeply to the important voice of God or others (hush). Or it could be unclear to those affected (mush). When any of these pitfalls are present, the potential for manipulation or control increases. Your decision-making procedure can often mitigate the damage of these pitfalls by incorporating some simple, supplemental activities.
Conclusion: A Better Way to Lead
We all should want to discern the best possible responses to the most challenging issues facing our churches. But the best decisions emerge from groups that pay attention to the people and processes leading to those decisions. Leadership teams willing to evaluate themselves and their process according to the commitments of their faith are not only more likely to generate strong responses to vexing challenges. They are also more likely to secure the trust of congregations to lead into whatever future challenges come next.
Questions for Discussion
Are we listening to God as individuals and as a group?
Is our decision-making process fair?