You were sure it was the right move for the church to make. You may still be sure.
But they said no. They couldn’t see what you saw.
You felt hurt, disappointed, maybe even betrayed. You may still feel that way.
And it wasn’t the first time. Although they talk about wanting to move forward, your church leaders keep saying no to innovative ideas. Big ideas. The kinds of ideas that your church needs to do if you have any hope of real forward motion.
What’s going on here? And what, if anything, can be done about it?
Why Do They Keep Saying No?
I went through several years of the same problems.
I was at a church that said they wanted to move forward, be healthy and impact their community. But every innovative idea got killed within minutes (sometimes it seemed like nanseconds) of being presented.
They didn’t even offer a clear reason for saying no. Just vague mumblings like, “It doesn’t feel right” or “I don’t think we’re ready for that yet”.
It was especially frustrating for me, because I was always looking for ways to say yes to their ideas – including developing a culture of bottom-up leadership that sought out good ideas from all quarters.
But when it came to my ideas, the church leaders stepped on the brake with a cement foot.
Give Them Time to Make the Big Decisions
After one particularly frustrating non-starter, I sat down to assess the situation.
As I reflected on the months of thought, prayer and planning I’d given the idea, only to have them reject it in less than 20 minutes, it hit me.
It had taken me months to say yes to this idea myself. But I expected them to say yes as soon as they heard it.
That wasn’t a fair request to make of them, especially when the idea was a big one.
They needed time to let it soak in their hearts, just like I needed time for it to soak into mine.
Think back on that great idea your leadership team shot down. Now try to remember the first time you thought of it or heard about it. Did it come fully formed and ready to implement? Or did it take you a while to warm up to it, pray about it, even edit it into a better form than it started out?
In my experience, every great, God-breathed idea takes time to rest in our spirit before it’s ready to hatch. We usually have to wrestle with it for a while.
If you want your leaders to make wise decisions, give them the time to do it well. Just like God gave you.
The bigger and better the idea, the longer it needs to incubate.
Let’s Help Leadership Teams Lead
From that day on, I’ve made a pledge to every leadership team I work with.
I will never ask church leaders to make a decision about a big idea in the same meeting in which they first hear about it.
Big ideas take time. Time for thought, prayer, reflection, editing, planning, conversation and more.
This is especially true in Small Churches.
That’s why churches have leadership teams. (You’ve wondered, haven’t you?) It’s their job to assess these issues and help us make better decisions. They can’t do that if we don’t give them the tools to do it well – including some time to think and pray it through.
After all, equipping the saints to do the work they’re called to do is a big part of our calling as pastors.
Not An Excuse for Endless Delay and Debate
No, we don’t debate endlessly over every trivial decision. I have zero tolerance for that. Our leadership meetings are thorough, but we don’t linger. Most decisions get presented and made quickly, then we move on.
And yes, emergencies arise in which big decisions have to be made very quickly. But, by definition, emergencies should be rare. If you’re always having to make big, last-minute decisions, you need to reflect seriously on your entire leadership method.
The kinds of ideas I’ve used this method for have included:
- Changing the church name
- Moving to a new facility
- Adding a second service time
- Re-organizing the budget to pay for a new staff member
- Starting a new ministry
- Ending a long-term ministry
None of those decisions should be made too quickly.
They Didn’t Want to Say No, After All
No, this isn’t a one-shot answer to all your church leadership disagreements. But it’s a great addition to your leadership tool belt.
Has this method worked in my church? Absolutely.
Does the leadership team say yes to all my big ideas now? Of course not. But they say no less often and less automatically.
And now they have a third option they love to use. Saying “yes, but” so they can help make a good idea better.
As it turns out, my church leaders were (almost) as frustrated saying no to their pastor’s good ideas as I was about hearing them say no. But they felt like they had no choice.
I was handing them innovative ideas, but giving them almost no time to consider the full ramifications. And, as leaders, they would bear some responsibility for it – especially if it didn’t work. They didn’t wanted to say no. But they weren’t ready to say yes, either.
The bigger the decision, the more time the leadership team needs to make it.
Let’s give them the tools to do it well.
So what do you think? Is this a tool your church leaders can use?
We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
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