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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Andy Stanley on The Cost of Indecision

Andy_stanley_1 Ever been in a position as a church leader when it was time to stop talking and make a decision?

Sometimes I think we talk TOO much instead of making decisions in the church.  After all, we think it would be great if we had everyone on our side before the decision was made.  We're afraid of making people mad; we're afraid of conflict; and yes, we're afraid people who don't get their way will (can I say it?), leave.

Andy Stanley has a great example of leadership that he shares in Leadership Journal.  Listen to his example....

When we started North Point Community Church, our leadership team suggested that our adult education be built around a network of small groups that met in homes.

This was in contrast to the adult Sunday school model we had all grown up with. We expected some pushback on this issue. Most of the folks helping to plant the new church had grown up going to Sunday school. It was all they knew. But we felt that a campus-based adult Sunday school program was not the best way to accomplish our mission.

Every time our leadership gathered, the issue of our small group strategy would come up. Some key leaders were not convinced that this was the best route. Others assumed we were adopting this strategy only until we had our own facility. People were quick to point out that other churches had tried home-based groups with only limited success.

For a year we listened. It's important to have "unfiltered discussion," to hear everyone's perspective. We did our best to answer questions and build consensus. We studied what other churches were doing. We piloted about a dozen groups to work out the kinks in the system.

But after a while I realized no new insights were being brought up. We were repeating the same arguments to each other. It was time to bring the discussion to a close.

The moment of truth came on a Wednesday evening in a rented facility next door to our property. All of our key adult leadership was present to discuss our plan to move into our soon-to-be completed facility. Toward the end of the meeting a woman raised her hand and shared her concern about our small group strategy. She was genuine, but her question was one I had answered a dozen times before.

In the past I had not taken a firm stand on this issue. I was only about 80 percent certain that our small group strategy would work, but I knew we had to give it 100 percent of our effort if it was going to succeed.

This time I put diplomacy aside and was very direct. Understand, these people are my friends. These folks had supported me through the most difficult transition of my life. They were volunteers. These men and women had sacrificed their time and financial resources to ensure a good start. But in spite of the uncertainties, it was time to be clear.

When the woman finished, I smiled and quickly reviewed the discussions we had been having for the previous year. Then I said, "After tonight we are not going to discuss 'if' anymore. We are moving forward. From now on I need you to focus your energies on 'how.' There are many unanswered questions. None of us has ever been part of a church that was organized around home groups. We have a lot to learn. Feel free to question our implementation, but not our direction. As of tonight, we go forward."

That was seven years ago. Currently, over five thousand adults are involved in small groups. The men and women who were in attendance that evening became the champions of our small-group ministry. Once it became clear which play was called, everybody got on board.

Were we certain of the outcome? No.

Were we clear about our direction? Absolutely.

Were we certain that this decision was the right one? No. If we had waited for absolute certainty we would still be talking. But a decision had to be made. A clear decision. And that decision, made in the intangible realm of ideas and projections, was eventually judged in the real world of attendance.

FOR DISCUSSION:  How do you know when it's time to stop talking, make a decision and move forward?  Are there areas now that you need to make a call and move on?  What are your thoughts?

You can read all of Andy's article at Leadership Journal right here.

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May 30, 2006 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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I think many Pastors may have the opposite problem of Andy; rather than talking/listening too much, it's not taking into account other opinions enough. We all have different personality types; Andy is probably more of an "analyzer."

For me, I seek guidance from God, then bounce the ideas and refine them from talking to my brothers/sisters in Christ.

Strange, he doesn't ever mention God's leading in this... as if it was up to consensus or man's logic...?

Proverbs 14:12
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Proverbs 3:6
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. [ Or will direct your paths ]


Posted by: bernie dehler | Jun 10, 2005 8:13:35 PM

"How do you know when it's time to stop talking, make a decision and move forward?" One indicator could be that when all you're hearing is the same points and questions from the same people - and those points have been addressed and the questions have been answered - then it's time to call the play.

When the same issues are continually raised, there are several possible reasons:

-you haven't responded to them at all. Either respond or make it clear that you're not going to respond. (I can't think of an appropriate reason not to respond at all; if you can, make that reason clear.)

-your responses haven't been understood. Get some help to clarify your response, or accept the fact that some people won't understand. Again, this latter tack should be rarely used.

-people don't like (or don't agree with) your responses. Ah, the mantle of leadership; call the play, then run it.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | May 30, 2006 3:53:32 PM

Andy comes out of a Southern Baptist mindset so that probably influenced him and his leadership. As a Baptist I know how long it can take to get where God wants you to be last year.

I learned something from Henry Blackaby that works very well in business meetings. When a vote is taken he notes that in those times when there is not 100 percent in favor, he will call the people to consider the vote this way. "Clearly God wants us to go in this direction as most of us believe, as we prayed, that this is what we are to do. Yet, God has give others some questions that need to be answered before we fully go forward. Let's take a moment to hear those concerns, pray, and seek biblical guidance so we can go forward in unity with the Spirit's leading." It works.

Just my two cents worth.

Posted by: Dan Moore | May 30, 2006 3:55:03 PM

I greatly admire Andy Stanley. I greatly admire his heart for his people.

May God continue to bless his commitment to the kingdom.

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | May 30, 2006 4:38:21 PM

I've heard Andy share this before and no matter how many times I hear it, it always hits home with me. There just comes a time when a leader must a decision and lead.

Posted by: Tony McCollum | Jun 7, 2006 11:41:22 PM

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