Tough Decisions Call for Tough Questions

Stern-look-questionsDoes God want us to hire a youth pastor? Should we mortgage the church to pay for a remodel? Should I run this new program?

These decisions can keep you up at night. Yet, by making two easy changes in the way you process decisions, you will dramatically increase the probability of success.

Ask Broader Questions
When we face leadership choices, we tend to ask narrow questions. Studies show that closed-ended questions, which require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, do not help us make the best decision. You will reach a better decision with lasting results if you ask different questions. Take a step back and consider broader questions. Here are some examples:

  • “How does God want to reach and disciple our youth?”
  • “What are our options to update our property?”
  • “What problems does this program fix?”

When you ask broader questions, you give yourself—and your decision making team—the opportunity to see different options.

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Opposing Arguments
When you have an important decision on the table, it is tempting to be frustrated with the naysayers. However, studies show that our opportunities for excellent decisions improve substantially when we consider what could go wrong.

Let’s look at a simple question that few of us might actually get to ask:

“Should we spend $25,000 on a radio campaign, delivering mini-devotionals for prime time drivers?”

Your board might be easily swayed by the possibility. After all, it is fun to spend money, and it is fun to hear your ad on the radio, and the prime time drivers are a captive audience. On top of that, if it was your idea, they might feel an obligation to help you expand your personal brand. If no one pushed back, you might end up spending the money and a substantial amount of time to put together this campaign.

Now, what if someone pushed back? What if you asked your team to go home, pray and investigate why this might not be the best decision? When you got back together, you might ask different questions:

  • Who are we trying to reach? (Very few non-Christians listen to Christian radio.)
  • What value do we want from this campaign?
  • What other ways could we spend $25,000 to reach people who don’t know Jesus?

Your decision making team would consider a lot more options on how to spend your $25,000 budget. Depending on your location and demographics, you might discover that the radio ad is just the right approach; or you might find that there are better ways to reach your intended audience’s heart.

Chip and Dan Heath have a new book, coming out this month, called Decisive. It is a book about decision making. The Heath brothers tell us that, in general, our corporate decision making needs a broader view. They give us lots of examples (great sermon material), and statistics on how we can become better decision makers, both corporately and individually.

The main key seems to be in how we approach the question.

“Does God want us to have a youth pastor?” is a very different question than “How does God want to reach these kids?”

“Do you agree with me?” is a very different question than “What am I not seeing?”

What decision are you facing this week? How can you rephrase your questions to arrive at a better answer?

Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a Masters of Theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach, and can be found online at She writes a weekly column for

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