Decisions, decisions, decisions
Apple founder and genius the late Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day. Not the same clothes mind you, he was aware of the need for good hygiene in the executive suite. The repetitive black turtle-neck, jeans, and New Balance sneakers weren't a GQ style-setting corporate branding scheme either. He wore the same thing every day to eliminate what for many people, especially leaders, is the first significant energy drain of the day---the decision about what to wear to work. It's an illustration of how high-profile leaders handle the ego depletion caused by decision fatigue. What in the word is this decision fatigue and why does it happen to spiritual leaders? Here's a quick peak into this new world---
Decision fatigue refers to the idea that people tend to make worse decisions
after having made a lot of decisions. Much like muscle fatigue, if you flex your
"decision" muscle too much, it will fail you.
Painting with a broader brush, decision fatigue is occasioned by quantitative and qualitative criteria, meaning that it can side-line us by the number of decisions we make and by the nature of those decisions. Many leaders, Steve jobs being an example, were worn out before work by dealing with inconsequential decisions that were menial in relation to life. You know, like what to wear every day. Studies have supported the thesis that the more decisions we make, and the nature of those decisions, tends to influence how successful we are at decision-making later in the process. People dealing with decision fatigue often settle for irrational trade-offs in their final choices, accept shortcuts in important processes, and entertain less than optimum outcomes in performance.
Sounds like a new bunch of psycho-babble or business jargon now evident in the CEO of the local congregation. Having served as a pastor in highly transitional churches for the past thirty-five years, however, I can attest to the reality of decision fatigue as a factor in spiritual leadership. It's so visible at church today because the decision making functions of congregational life are usually centralized in the spiritual leader. This leader must decide mission direction, organizational structure, administrative details, pastoral time tables, the preaching/teaching schedule, human resource application, community engagement, the color of carpet in the sanctuary, refreshments at the outreach event, compatible music for services Sunday, the temperature in the worship center, and what version of the Bible is best suited to the youth group. When it piles up, it can become, no mater how important it may seem, more junk that will clutter the church till it is handled. So, how do we avoid this kind of decision stress in church?
1. Church governing documents must facilitate decision-making.
Often the church constitution and by-laws are restrictive to the point of
inhibiting movement and inhibiting decision-making. If the church is to
engage this fast world the decision-making functions must be stream-lined and
spread through the organizational leadership of the church.
2. Trust must define internal relationships in the church.
Staff, elders, organizational leaders, and people in the organizational chart
must be trained and equipped in mission, decision-making, and accountability.
If trust doesn't define these relationships, the decision-making processes will
3. Mission and vision must communicated with passion and regularity.
Church leaders should always know mission direction. The spiritual leaders
should cast the church vision often and empower those in the leadership grid
with the authority to make decisions.
4. Prayer should guide the decision-making elements of church leadership.
James wrote that believers should pray for wisdom and believe that God would
answer that prayer. Corporate leaders can conduct strategy sessions and
strategic planning to overlay the mechanics of decision-making. Spiritual
leaders can pray.
5. Spiritual leaders should be trained in listening to and obeying God's voice.
God speaks to his through the Holy Spirit in all things, through prayer,
the Word of God, through the people of God, and through circumstances.
These truths should be emphasized and re-emphasized in leadership training.
Jesus modeled the Step of Discernment, what I refer to in my book, Finish.Period. Going the Distance in Ministry as the step aside to hear from God. Luke wrote, "Yet he often withdrew to deserted places and prayed" (Luke 5:16). This isn't the discipline of listening to others or weighing options or doing background research. It is the discipline of hearing what God says about a course of action. Decision fatigue can be eliminated if the decision-making work is spread through the organizational leadership, and if leaders know to step aside to hear from God when making decisions.
Til we do, it will be decisions, decisions, decisions, more junk that will clutter church life till handled definitively by someone.