5 Really Tough Decisions Pastors Make

5 Really Tough Decisions Pastors Make

The higher you rise in leadership, the fewer decisions you make, but the greater the weight each decision carries.

Leadership and decision-making are inseparable. It’s part of the territory. Owning your decisions is the real weight. Any leader enjoys the resulting success from a good decision, but when a bad decision is made, the great leaders take responsibility. And the truth is, if you’ve never made a bad call, you are playing it too safe.

Unfortunately, some leaders respond to a decision that didn’t go well like putting their hand on a hot stove. They just don’t go near stoves anymore. You’ve got to learn from your mistakes and stay in the game.

Playing it safe and dodging the really tough decisions will eventually get you in just as much hot water as making a bad decision. So keep practicing, gain wisdom in your experience, learn from your mistakes and you’ll make a better decision each time.

  • Poor leaders stall or won’t make a decision.
  • Average leaders often make decisions that don’t really matter.
  • Great leaders make a few tough calls that help move the church forward.

5 really tough decisions that make a big difference if done the right way:

1) The decision to resign.

Staying too long at your church and leaving too soon are equally dangerous decisions. Is this about retirement? No. It can be, but there are far more comings and goings over the life of a leader than the last one, often called retirement.

This subject deserves an entire post, so stay tuned, but for now, there are several factors to consider.

In terms of leaving too soon, have you heard from God that He’s releasing you from your ministry? Sometimes we can be tempted by new and shiny opportunities that are good, but not God’s plan. Have you learned all you need to learn? Are you leaving because you’re frustrated, or because your ministry has been fulfilled? Does your decision serve the church well, or just you? Have you been treated poorly and need to leave? If that’s the case, have you made peace so far as possible on your side?

In terms of staying too long, are you there because it’s safe and secure? This is just as often about personality as age. Is your leadership advancing the ministry of the church? Are you staying because you’re comfortable and it would be inconvenient to make a move? Do you sense a prompting from God but you are resisting it? Do you believe your contribution to the church is strong and vibrant?

As you can see, this is a very involved and difficult decision. It deserves deep consideration and prayer so that your decision serves both you and the church well.

2) The decision to let someone go from staff.

No matter what reason you release someone from staff, you carry responsibility for the decision. As a leader, some things that are not your fault are still your responsibility.

More often, you and the staff member share in the responsibility for whatever happened to allow the relationship or performance (or both if it went on too long) to decline.

Whatever the circumstance, letting someone go is always a tough decision. When I make those decisions, it’s painful. Let’s be honest, who would like doing that? But to avoid that decision is a huge and costly mistake.

I’ve talked with hundreds of leaders over the years who know what they need to do, but they just won’t do it. No one wins that way. And your influence is diminished if you won’t make the tough call.

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Dan Reiland
Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.