decision making, consensus & pattern recognition

Decision Making Questions For Leaders

Part 2 of 2 episodes on decision making. Following the previous conversation with Todd Wagner, Adam and John now discuss questions that church leaders should be asking when making decisions.


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Introduction (0:16)

“Decisions have consequences.” - John McGee

Make sure to check out our downloadable Questions for Leaders PDF. We pray that it will be a helpful resource as you process through decision making. Decision making is one the most important things that church leaders do. Many of your day’s decisions may seem inconsequential, but others can have incredibly positive or negative impact for years to come. At Watermark Community Church, in order to serve in any capacity, you must be a member. This was the result of a decision by Todd and friends 20 years ago to raise the bar for service and church membership. That decision has now positively impacted the church body for two decades. Before going further into the framework for making decisions, John and Adam talk about some foundational concepts.

First, in his book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz talks about how there are essentially two types of decision makers in the world: maximizers and satisficers. Another way of putting that is there are people who over-analyze decisions and those who under-analyze decisions. People exist on this spectrum of decision making tendencies.

Secondly, Brent Gleeson, former Navy Seal and author, talks about how there are four types of decision making: Command, Collaborative, Consensus, and Convenience. Command decision making is typically independent and occurs in isolation. Command leadership is especially useful in times of crisis where bold, fast leadership is crucial. Collaborative decision making occurs when the leader ultimately makes the final call, but they do seek counsel, brainstorm with others beforehand. If you are surrounded by a large amount of “yes-people” this may not be the most efficient form of decision making. Next, Consensus decision making occurs when everyone discusses a decision making, all voices are heard, and then the outcome is put to a vote. Lastly, Convenience decision making occurs when leaders are able to delegate the decision making to those they are leading.

Decision Making Grid

All of this considered, decision making can still be incredibly difficult. Over the years, John and Adam have put together 10 Questions to aid you when making decisions. Follow along with our downloadable resource.

1. Should I Be The One to Make The Decision? (8:34)

Decision fatigue is a real thing. After a long day of making decisions, a time may arrive where it is not beneficial or responsible to continue doing so. This is when you need to ask if you really have to be the one to make that decision. If the answer is no, then you should practice delegating that decision to others who have the capacity to make it. There will always be decisions that you have to make, but for those you do not, use it for a developmental opportunity.

2. Have I Asked God For Help? (10:10)

Christians have a competitive advantage when making decisions. James 1:5 says that God is on our side and able to help when lack wisdom. Pray to and trust the Holy Spirit when processing through decisions.

3. Do I Have All the Facts? (12:07)

Needing more facts will be the norm for maximizers. However, you will never have all the facts. Eventually, in every decision making process, there will come a time when a decision is needed. Facts are your friends, try to have as many as possible before making a decision. Needing the facts cannot become a delay tactic.

4. Do I Need To Bring Others in to the Decision? (13:45)

Bringing others in slows down the decision making process, and thus does not ensure efficiency. However, it does generally increase quality and benefit execution. Proverbs 15:22 advises decisions to be made amid the counsel of others. There will always be more wisdom if there are more people in the room. Remember that whenever you invite others into the decision making process, make sure to loop them in on the final decision. This forces clarity and makes it certain you do not surprise anyone who might be impacted.

5. Do I Feel Pressured To Make This Decision Quickly? (16:36)

There will often be outside perceived pressure when making a decision. It is important to realize that this may not actually be the case. Asking for extra time to make decisions may help you avoid pressure and emotion impacted decision making. Do not let anyone force you into making a decision faster than necessary.

6. What is the Worst Case Scenario If You Make the Wrong Decision? (20:00)

Putting decision into perspective can decrease the anxiety associated with making a choice. Framing things in terms of their worst case scenario can help remind that ultimately, people are not going to typically lose their lives if you are wrong. Generally, your church won’t close its doors or your children cease to eat. This can help you process through whether you are making decisions out of fear.

7. Am I Making This Decision for the Wrong Reasons? (22:27)

We have the tendency to make decisions that are primarily beneficial for ourselves. However, this is contrary to how Jesus talked about leadership and servant hood in the Bible. This question can reveal a lot about your heart if you are constantly asking this question of other people. If you are more worried about why other people are making decisions and if they are being genuine, then you likely are tempted to fall into those same pits yourself. Try to believe the best in others. If you cannot, then go ask that person directly. Remember to communicate decisions with as much information about motive as possible.

8. What Have I Learned From Similar Decisions in My Past? (27:02)

Much of life becomes about pattern recognition. If you take the time to look back and analyze past decisions, then you will be more equipped to make decisions in the future. Look at the success rate of decisions in your past. What kind of decisions and in what contexts do you make bad decisions.

9. What Decision Would a Great Leader Make? (29:22)

Pick an incredible leader you look up to and try to ask what decision that person would make. This can help you get unstuck and remove emotion from a decision. The answer typically becomes fairly clear.

10. Have I Asked God for Courage? (31:07)

“You cannot make decisions fearlessly. That is impossible. Make them courageously.” - Adam Tarnow

After you have asked all the previous questions, asked God for help, and made your decision, it is time to ask God for courage. At this point the thing you are likely lacking isn’t clarity, but courage. Remember that the God of the universe is on your side. Excellent leaders either have courage, or are intentional to seek it out. Don’t not do things or shy away from making decisions because they are scary. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s moving forward in spite of fear.


Conclusion (33:12)

We encourage you to print out our resource on decision making, put it in your office or on your desk and start to use it to think through decision making. Remember that you are inevitably going to make bad decisions. When you do, make sure to own those decisions and accept responsibility. Additionally, remember that you will not be able to please everyone. If everyone is applauding your decisions, you are likely doing something incorrectly.


Questions or Comments? Email clp@watermark.org