Leadership as “Decision Making”

©2011 Todd Rossnagel

I know I might be stating the obvious but leaders “make decisions.” Everyday a variety of choices and options come through our lives. These choices and options do not just impact us but as congregational leaders they impact people given to our care. Our decision making affects a whole community.

We make decisions everyday. Most of these might have little to do with what we normally might call “pastoral” responsibilities. These decisions are about roofs, staff sales calls, other leaders, opportunities, and room assignments.

Then there are those times when the “decision making” is serious. People’s livelihoods are at stake, the state of their inner lives is on the line, the reputation of the body could be damaged. In these cases decision making matters and not making a decision could be even worst than making the wrong one. The leader must lead, must decide, and must carry the burden of the community’s life together.

How does the leader make such decisions? Does “decision making” matter?

The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola tells us:

By the grace of God, we are meant to recognize the influencing powers by evaluating those motions which are good so that we might let them give direction to our lives and those which are bad so that we might reject them or turn aside from them.

David L. Fleming from Draw Me Into Your Friendship – The Spiritual Exercises: A Literal translation & A Contemporary Reading

Decision making in the Christian community is not done alone. As a leader we lean on the practices of our community. We lean on discernment to help us “lean into” what God might be inviting us into through our decision making. The community story and its participants are also guides. The leader must surround him/herself with wise counselors and advisors to help “think through,” to assist in “testing the spirits,” to help “see God’s vision” in the decision making.

It is easy to want to do it alone, to carry the entire burden and to desire to be the savior through our decision making.

It is also easy to not want the burden of the decision making. To hide, put off, minimize, or ignore. Here we wish it would go away or we ask another to make the decision for us.

Both extremes negate the power of the Spirit that moves in each of us and in the community we call the church; the power that connects us to one another and has been called upon the ordained for the task of leadership in the Christian community. The power of the Spirit gives us the wisdom to evaluate the spiritual motions in the everyday decisions of pastoral ministry.

Decision making matters! I am learning to lean on the Spirit, to continue praying for clarity and to be willing to engage those “wise sages” that form the inner circle of my relational life. I am learning to test the spirits and make decisions with confidence, boldness, and humility.

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