A number of basic suggestions have been stated in the various publications that deal with decision-making. These principles will help the Christian leader to make more right decisions.
1. Be certain a decision must be made. Christians are sometimes guilty of answering questions that no one is asking, and making decisions that are not needed.
2. Recognize that there are probably no easy answers. There is not a single right answer, at least for many of the decisions that need to be made. Do not to worry too much about making the wrong decision because few decisions have an absolutely right or wrong answer, but make the best decision one can make at the time needed, and then make the decision work.
3. Don’t make decisions when under stress. A physical or emotional problem will hamper a person’s ability to make the right decision. It is better to delay a decision than to make it when a person is angry, upset, or under great pressure. Preachers need to avoid those Monday morning decisions to resign.
4. Gather all the information that time, funds, and energy will allow. Better decisions are made when there is adequate information. Many times pastors have started new ministries without really counting the cost. Jesus warned against doing things without counting the cost.
5. Review the church’s policies and procedures to see if there is help to make this decision. Perhaps that decision or a similar one has been made even as a policy.
6. Determine the known impact on everything and everybody involved. What are the possible impacts on people and things? Remember, for every action there is a reaction.
7. Decide if there are any ethical and/or moral questions to answer. The values of the decision maker and the organization may differ, and would present a problem.
8. Decide if it is possible to reverse the decision after it is made. Decisions that cannot be reversed without great expense should be made more carefully than those that can be reversed with little cost.
9. Identify the advantages you can take of other things if you make this decision. Sometimes one decision will open up a number of other doors for ministry.
10. Involve the people in the decision-making process. Proverbs 11:14 says that in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom. This increases the information and the possible solutions. When the people who are to carry out a decision are involved, this will increase their acceptance of the choice. They need to feel the decision belongs to them, and not just sold to them. As a general rule a decision should be made as close as possible to where the work is being done. Decisions have a tendency to drift up an organizational structure, but they need to be pushed down. The atmosphere needs to be informal, comfortable, and relaxed. There should be a lot of discussion in which nearly everyone participates, but the discussion stays relevant. The objectives are well understood and accepted by all members. The members listen to one another. Every idea is given a hearing. There are disagreements, for disagreements are not overridden. Most decisions are reached by some form of consensus. The group does not trust formal voting with a simple majority. Criticism is frequent and frank, but comfortable, and shows little evidence of personal attack. Members feel free to express their feelings as well as their ideas. Assignments to members are clear and accepted. The group leader does not dominate, nor is there evidence of a power struggle. The group is self-conscious about its own operation.
Group decision-making has a number of advantages. There is a greater sum total of knowledge or information. There is a greater number of approaches to a problem. The participation in decision-making increases general acceptance of the final choice. Group decision-making will also provide better comprehension of the decision providing for fewer problems with communication. Group decision-making also has some liabilities. Social pressure to be a good group member tends to silence disagreement. Acceptance of first solutions that receives strong support usually takes place even if better solution comes later. Individual domination takes place often. Winning the decision divides the group up as they take sides.
11. Some decisions that are very large should be broken down into several smaller decisions. Caution must be used not to communicate that since the group has made one decision they are bound to make later decisions. Sometimes a decision is made to study something, and then pressure is put on to accept the decision of the study group. A decision to study is just that, and not a decision to implement.
12. When pressed into a decision, it is better to say no and later change it to yes, than to say yes and later try to change it to no.
13. Set a time to make a decision, and make the best decision possible at that time. This helps to avoid putting off decision-making for an unnecessarily long time. When the decision is made, then start moving, and if it becomes evident that the wrong decision was made, then make whatever corrections are necessary to get back on course. John Maxwell stressed the importance of timing when he stated:
The wrong decision at the wrong time is a disaster,
The wrong decision at the right time is a mistake,
The right decision at the wrong time is unacceptable,
The right decision at the right time leads to success.
14. Consider the difference in finding a satisfactory solution rather than the maximum solution. Sometimes a satisfactory solution should be accepted; then you can move on. When joined with challenging goals, a realistic level of aspiration, and appreciation of the cost of obtaining information, the solution is rational.
15. Use an authority or expert.
16. Recognize that each time we make a decision, we increase the probability that we will respond in a similar way to that kind of issue in the future.
Dangers in decision-making
2. Lack of criteria and/or objectives
3. Insufficient information
5. Strong emotions present
8. Insecure leader