Find a Few Wise People

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When pastors tell me about particularly troubling dilemmas they face in their congregations, perhaps the most common advice I offer is, “Find a wise person,” or “Find a few wise people.” Here is what I mean.

If you have selected the right persons to consult they will give you their best assessment of reality. Because you have affirmed their fairness and thoughtfulness, they rise to meet your expectations.

My experience is that in every church or organization there are some truly wise people. I am not talking about elderly wise sages, though many will be older folks. I mean, rather, that person or persons with the ability, when approached correctly, to rise above even their own preferences to give good counsel and advice.

Here is an example. You go to the person with a request such as this: “Jane (or John), would you be willing to think with me about something — to be a type of consultant for me for just a moment? I won’t quote you, but I need your thoughts.” Then you find a non-threatening way to raise your issue. “Is it just my imagination, or are folks in the Men’s Bible Class not staying for worship the way they used to?” Or, “A group of younger people in the congregation want us to add a new worship service. What are your thoughts about the questions and issues we need to keep in mind if we consider that option? And who else might be involved in the conversation?”

Often such persons will give you their most objective reading of the situation. Or sometimes the wise person will say, “Let me do some listening and get back to you.” If you have selected the right persons to consult, even on issues in which they have a stake, they will rise to the occasion and give you their best assessment of reality. Because you have affirmed their fairness and thoughtfulness, they rise to meet your expectations.

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About Author

Dr. Lovett H. Weems, Jr.

Lovett H. Weems Jr. is senior consultant at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, distinguished professor of church leadership emeritus at Wesley Theological Seminary, and author of several books on leadership.

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