Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Impossible Scenarios

Yesterday I wrote about Unrealistic Expectations. I want to follow up on that theme with a discussion about impossible scenarios. Leadership teams in churches, and other faith based organizations, often become paralyzed when one or more members of the team create an impossible scenario that cannot be solved. The group spends so much time trying to solve the scenario that they cannot get anything else accomplished.

Impossible scenarios are created in two ways, either by playing the “what if” game or by playing the “that won’t work” game. Both games are similar, and neither is helpful.

In the “what if” game, someone in the group becomes obsessed with trying to figure out every possible result of any particular action. They then want the group to come up with a solution to those various outcomes before they can proceed. Often hiding behind comments like, “I’m just trying to be thorough” or “We must protect the church from these types of things,” the person who wants to play the "what if" game is actually displaying a lack of faith.

Do not misunderstand, church leadership teams do need to think through the consequences of their actions and be prepared to deal with them. But it is simply impossible to figure out every possible result of every possible action. When a team becomes overly focused on that kind of decision making, they seldom make decisions at all. They meet a lot. They talk a lot. They worry a lot. But they do not get a lot done.

Leadership teams that are trapped in the “what if” game typically have high turnover rates, as those who actually want to make a difference grow frustrated with the lack of progress. In church life, we must never forget the important role faith plays. Matthew 6:33-34 reminds us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” If we have sought the Kingdom first, then we should trust that the Lord is guiding our decisions and will work them out for good. If some unforeseen results occurs, we must have the faith the Lord will help us figure out how to deal with it when it arises. There is no need to borrow trouble from the future as a way to avoid making decisions today.

Team members who play the “what if” game need to be encouraged to pray and ask God for wisdom. They need to be encouraged to exercise more faith. Though they can be frustrating to deal with sometimes, they are actually valuable members of the leadership team because they do force us to think about things before making a decision. So long as we do not let them get carried away, they can be a big help to a team.

The other way that impossible scenarios are created is when one or more members of the team respond to any idea with some version of “that won’t work.” It may be that they tried it ten years ago and it did not work, so they do not they it will work now. It may be that they heard about some other church that tried it and it did not work for them, so it will not work for us. It may be that we have just never done it that way before and do not plan to start now. The reasons for why this person thinks it will not work are endless, but they are adamant that whatever the idea is, it will not work.

Like the “what if” game, this may simply be a lack of faith, and if so, then the same principle applies. They need to be encouraged to pray more and to have more faith, but remain a valuable part of the team. But sometimes people like this are struggling more with control issues than they are a lack of faith. The person who is always saying “that won’t work” often has a specific way that they think will work. If they presented their way and it was rejected by the group, the person may be determined to shoot down everyone else’s idea out of a sense of revenge. Or, if they have a more passive-aggressive personality, they may never present their plan openly. Instead, they keep picking apart everyone else’s ideas until the only thing left is whatever they wanted to do in the first place. If the group does not agree with their plan when it finally emerges, they will keep the group paralyzed indefinitely because in their mind they have already eliminated all other ideas but their own.

Naysayers like this are seldom helpful on a leadership team and if they are allowed to remain in leadership, the church will never be very effective. Since people like this are often strong willed and quite vocal, it can be hard to stand up to them. But at some point, people who are determined to attack all ideas but their own must be removed from leadership until they can overcome this tendency and become more mature. It will not be an easy task, but it must be done.

Churches that are trapped in an endless loop of impossible scenarios must find a way out, or they will continue to talk a lot while getting very little done. Meanwhile, a world around them races head long into eternity with ever knowing the love of Christ.

1 comment:

  1. You have no idea how helpful this post it. Our pastor, whom I love, creates impossible senarios all the time that we just cannot meet as a church, then he chides us for our failures. He has finally announced his resignation, and though we will miss him, we will not miss the constant pressure he has us under.