Look for Options, Not Solutions

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Leaders are constantly faced with problems. They engage such challenges with energy because they know that these issues represent what stands between their current reality and God’s vision for the future of their congregation. Leaders can celebrate that they are aware of what the problems are in order to address them. A worship leader has a worship service that is overflowing or scarcely attended. An education leader fields complaints each week about teachers arriving late or holding students well past the ending time.

It honors and empowers others to bring them into the circle of deliberation for discernment of what is the next faithful step.

Once leaders recognize a problem, the default mode for many is to come up with a solution, perhaps even seeing that as their responsibility. Usually they are wise enough to propose their solution to others, including those who are most involved or at least those who must approve the solution. Often, to their surprise, leaders discover that some are not aware of the problem, and others know there is an issue but do not agree with the response a leader is proposing.

A different approach for leaders faced with a problem is not to offer a solution but to gather those with responsibility or involvement in the area of ministry facing the challenge. Instead of saying, “We have a problem, and I would like to suggest that we consider doing ‘X’ to solve the problem,” the opening to the conversation might be simply naming the challenge.

Some of you have noticed that.…
Several have called my attention to.…

Recognizing that people have different levels of knowledge about the concern, you can then offer a chance for questions.

Some of you may be less familiar with this issue than others, but there are persons here who do know more about it. They can answer any questions we may have before we spend time exploring possible options.

The next sentence would be an invitation to work on the issue as a group of leaders to whom the church looks to address such dilemmas.

We are blessed with leaders such as you who bring differing expertise and perspectives to bear on what the challenge is. Let’s spend some time naming a range of options before we move to see if clues are emerging for a creative way to address our situation.

If solutions do not emerge, it may help to ask other questions.

What else do we need to know?
With whom else do we need to talk?

Leaders often carry unnecessary burdens of responsibility as if they must solve whatever problems arise. Whatever the dilemmas are, they are concerns for a group of stakeholders beyond just the leader. It honors and empowers others to bring them into the circle of deliberation for discernment of what is the next faithful step to address the concern they are facing.


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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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