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For many of us, the hardest thing about contentious issues is the looming sense that at some point, a decision may have to be made. We eventually realize that, at some point, even not deciding is actually a decision. And we grieve that whatever decision we make, our community will not be together in the same way as it was before this issue arose. 

While discernment practices often feel very spiritual, decision-making can seem cold and disconnected from our faith. The truth is, we need both discernment and decision-making in the face of challenging issues. And we need both to be rooted deeply in our faith.

Sometimes a decision needs to be made. Next Steps acknowledges that fact, but shifts the focus this way: what matters in our churches is not just WHAT we decide, but also HOW we decide. 

Decision-Making Foundation

For starters, have you laid a foundation of desiring God’s will? Have you wrestled with God’s Word? Have you opened your heart in prayer before the Lord? Have you committed to seeing one another as persons and not just as positions?

Fair Process: Decently and in Good Order

If you’ve done that there are still a few other things that churches too often neglect. That’s why, in Next Steps, we prompt you to make decisions with really good decision-making process in place. For most councils, that means, you have to slow down and answer clearly questions like:

  • Who is making the decision?
  • When will they make it?
  • How will it be communicated?

As obvious as these questions may seem, some churches are really fuzzy about exactly who is making a decision:

  • What voices will be considered and how?
  • Will the elders decide? The council? The pastor?
  • Will there be a congregational vote?
  • Will there be an opportunity for members to give feedback?

Leaving these questions unanswered often leads to growing mistrust. That’s why Next Steps helps you be clear about your process. 

Clear Communication

Another common mistake is that the decision-makers, usually the council, aren’t clear about what they’ve decided or what that decision means. People in the church might have a vague sense of direction, but might also have a bunch of unanswered questions about specifics. That’s why in Next Steps, we prompt you to write the decision down in a thorough letter to your congregation: a good letter or scenario, as we sometimes call it, explicitly names how we got to this decision, what grounds this decisions, what promise this position has, and even what perils or risks might this approach have. Churches that can begin to address these different aspects of a decision build trust with their people.

Good Process Builds Trust for Leaders

That’s what you aim for in a good decision-making process. You want to build trust with your people. What you want is for even those who will disagree with your decision to feel like the decision was made with utmost integrity, with no process tricks, where contrary voices were taken seriously even if they weren’t agreed with, and where all of the consequences of each approach were thoroughly evaluated.  

Learn More

To learn more about how Next Steps can help your church with trust-building good process, check us out at



Hi Sean...

Though I can appreciate the points regarding process, but process becomes problematic when one assumes everyone is working with the same underlying premises e.g. those on either end of the political spectrum. Process falls apart there are two quite separate religious worldviews at play within the Christian community, similar to engaging in ecumenical dialogue between Buddhists and Jews. 

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