How To Make A Decision

By: Olan Hendrix

Article 1

Every day the frustrated pastor turned from his work to watch the 3:10 train roar through town. The reason for his fascination, he explained, was that the train was the only thing in town that moved without him pushing it. That unfortunate pastor may well have been caught in the trap of “excessive group decision-making”–a malady that can afflict and cripple the most efficient of organizations and churches. Put simply, it’s the problem that too many people in a group are responsible for making too many decisions. The result is most often wasted time, wasted energy frustration, and immobility.

Most growing, thriving churches have found a way around the “excessive group decision-making” problem.

As I observe churches and their organizational structures, I encounter quite regularly two theories–one accurate and one inaccurate–that are held tenaciously by church leadership. One theory is that an important part of church growth is group ownership of the goal to grow. This theory is absolutely true! There is no substitute for ownership, particularly the ownership of a goal as important as church growth.

The second theory says that in order for people to own a goal, they must be absolutely to vote on it. This theory, on the other hand, is absolutely false!

The following common misconceptions may also be of interest. . .

The church that decides together, grows together.

The mole people involved in making a decision, the better the decision will be.

When the masses in a church clamor for more voting privileges and rights, that is indeed what they really want.

Democracy (i.e., everybody voting on everything) is taught in the Bible and was practiced in the New Testament church.

When people vote “yes” on an idea or project they will, because of their vote, support that project.

The following questions will help you evaluate your church’s approach to decision-making . . .

“How much time is spent in the group decision-making process throughout the church?”

“How much reduction is there in the quality of decisions because of the compromises necessary in group decision-making?”

“How much complacency results when the leaders assume that because people have voted on a matter, their continued doubt and questions have ended?”

“How much goal-policy inversion results because of commitment to an emphasis on how to do things rather than what it is to be done?” Next, some suggestions that will help you in getting a decision made:

1 – Decisions should not be made by a group if an individual can adequately make the decision himself.

2 – Most decisions should be made as low as possible in the organizational structure, and as near as possible to where the work is performed.

3 – Unless checked, decisions tend to drift up the organizational structure, lodging themselves in committees, boards, and congregational meetings.

4 – The number of decisions made tends to increase in all groups as time passes.

5 – The more information available to the group, the more apt the group is to let individuals and smaller groups make many of the decisions.

Finally, here are some suggestions for streamlining the decision-making process in your congregation:

First, begin gradually to gear the decision-making process, within the framework of your constitution and by-laws, to accommodate your style of leadership, the current needs of the church, and the immediate goals you are working to bring about.

Next, set up effective information and participatory procedures for all your people apart from the voting process. For example, try announcing to a committee, board, or congregation, “We are just going to discuss this issue. No vote will be taken.” Such a statement may come as a great shock, but it will also be of great benefit, and will minimize heat, while maximizing light!

Wherever you have excessive group decision-making by a congregation, a committee, or a board, pose the magic question: “Which decisions do you insist upon making for yourselves, as a group for your own protection and self-preservation?”

Keep growth as your goal, not a system of decision-making. Your people will be willing to change systems and procedures to the degree that you infect them with growth goals. Then their attention will be focused on those outside the church, rather than on themselves.

Try to balance patience with push. If you don’t push for decision-making reforms nothing will change. On the other hand, if you push too hard and too soon, people will dig in their heels and refuse to budge.

As you begin the work of shifting the responsibility for decision-making in your church, remember that your purpose in effecting this change is to help your church reach its goals as efficiently and as rapidly as possible. Emphasize the goals. Talk about them. Nothing, absolutely nothing releases energy, provides direction, builds cohesiveness, and facilitates change better than a commonly owned goal.

(The original source of the above material is unknown.)


Article 2

There are very few subjects in our present economic field which have received as much attention or had more words written about them than the subject of Making Decisions. This is as it should be because no business, industry or profession can operate divorced from decisions.

The head of any company, department or project is always faced with the responsibility of making decisions. If the decision’ is completely covered by company procedures or policies, the decision is merely an administrative act. In the majority of cases, however, this is not true. Consequently, it is helpful to the person in authority to have a certain formula or pattern to follow as a guide line in his decision making.


If there is one over-all principle that applies in every case where decisions are condemned, it is this: No one’s judgment is any better than the facts on which it is based.

Until we have gathered all the available facts, we do not even know what is the exact problem. Just how much information we should accumulate is determined by the importance of the problem and how much time we have before action must be taken.

If the problem is a small one, it would obviously be illogical to spend a large amount of money and time assembling facts. On the other hand, if the problem is critical, the case may be otherwise. Remember this in determining the number of facts necessary: Many have made the wrong decision because of an insufficiency of facts; no one has ever made the wrong decision because of too many facts.

In assembling facts, the information should be screened carefully. We must be particularly careful in trying to ascertain the real problem, that we do not confuse opinions, prejudices and biased statements with actual facts.

When we are satisfied that we have defined the exact problem, we should weigh it carefully before taking the next step. It may be that it is so incidental, once brought to light, that actually a problem does not exist. It may be that it is the type of problem best solved by time and no action should be taken. Even in some instances it may be that for some reason no action CAN be taken. There are exceptional cases, however.


After we have accumulated all the available facts and feel that we can see the real problem, we must consider the possible choices we can make.

Even if one course of action seems obviously best, at least explore and consider all possible avenues of decision. If you eventually decide on the first course, you will be even more convinced that this is the best choice if other courses have been carefully weighed.

Review the various courses before making a final decision. Be sure that you have considered each unemotionally and that bias or prejudice has not entered into your consideration.


In selecting the one course of action, there are obviously many things to consider. A few of the more important are as follows:

Does this course offer a real solution or does it merely delay or sidestep the problem?

Can we find any precedent for such a course? If not, can we test the course before going ahead completely?

How expensive will this course be?

Will it violate any company policies or set any dangerous precedents?

Have we sufficient personnel to carry through?

Although it may solve the present problem, will it create any new ones?

Will it affect the over-all picture in any adverse way?

Even though there may be several courses equally desirable, we must eventually choose one course and ACT. No decision is really a final decision until action takes place. Until then, it is merely academic theory.

All decisions have an element of risk involved. This risk, however, can be mitigated through a proper follow up program.

Be sure that the decision is put into effect fully and carried, out with precision. If the decision affects employees, be sure all are informed of the action and be ready to answer questions where

If you find that you did not have all the facts, or that the facts have changed, have the courage to withdraw the decision and make a new decision in the light of true facts. Keep all who might be affected informed of your new action. Don’t continue with an erroneous decision just to save face.


The real worth of a person’s life on this earth is determined more than anything else by the things he writes indelibly and the things he engraves deeply in the lives of others. No one has the opportunity to write so indelibly or engrave so deeply as the person who supervises others in their work. Of all the arts on this earth, none is so valuable as the art of building people.

In order to be a leader of men, the supervisor must be truly interested in his employees. He must actually like them, be interested in their welfare and all that concerns them. The employees can easily determine whether the interest is faked or genuine.

A good supervisor accepts the blame for any failure that takes place in his department. He never passes the buck or tries to sidestep criticism directed toward his department. Realizing this, his
employees have an added incentive to prevent mistakes that would cause embarrassment to their supervisor.

The supervisor goes to bat for those in his department. He doesn’t just tell his employees that he has their interest at heart. He proves it. Under normal circumstances he will stand up for an employee when attacked from another department of the company, though he may later “set straight” his employee in private. He never praises his employees insincerely nor does he criticize them unjustly. His prime concern is to be fair and impartial with them at all times. His employees are never afraid to go to him with their troubles. They realize he will listen with sincere interest.

It is not easy to be a leader. As was emphasized earlier, many can learn to manage things but only a few become proficient in managing people. This calls for constant study of the principles of human engineering and motivation. But to a leader who has taught others: to live more abundantly, the rewards are great, the fulfillment is without comparison.

(The original source and/or publisher of the above material is unknown.)

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