Decision Paralysis

Last night, my wife and I tried out a new restaurant in town. We love trying new places, and sushi is one of our favorites. So when we found out about a Japanese fusion restaurant (I’m still not exactly sure what that means, even after eating there), we were stoked.

When we sat down, we began to look at the menu (which, mind you, was in English). I flipped past the first page. Then on to page 2…then 3…and on to the 4th, 5th, and 6th pages. Then back to 1. Then to 2…and so on. I did this 4 times…I’m not kidding. Our waiter approached the table and asked, “Are you ready to order?” And you know what my decision was? “Sorry, I’m not quite ready yet.”  When the waiter returned a couple minutes later, I had the same reply. And I was no closer to ordering than when I walked into the restaurant. Why?

I had decision paralysis.

There were so many choices that I just couldn’t decide what I wanted. My guess is that there were over 100 menu items, each with a sentence or two description. I was overwhelmed. Hence, I couldn’t make a decision.

It had nothing to do with the fact that I was torn between a couple of different items, with one good and another bad. In fact, I have no doubt (based on how good our food was) that all of their food is superb. I just couldn’t decide what I wanted.

Think I’m weird? The other 5 people at the table had the same problem when they were ordering. There were just too many choices.

And I think we fall into that same trap in our churches. It seems like a good idea, right? Offering a program that fits each person’s given wants seems intuitive. Going the simple route is counter-intuitive.

But if you try to be all things to all people, you’ll leave people confused. Paralyzed. Unable to move. Not sure which direction to take.

Take a look at your current discipleship structure. Work your strategy so that you help your church grow healthy disciples, but don’t leave them so overwhelmed by choices that they end up making no choice. By simplifying your structure, you leave room for people to invest in their families and community. It also allows you (church leadership) to devote all of your energy towards that one discipleship plan and execute it with excellence.

I’m all about simplifying. Maybe it’s time that your church or organization let dead programs go ahead and die. Or start doing away with programs that aren’t accomplishing your strategy anymore.

By offering less, you can actually offer more

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Ben Reed is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow, a multi-site church in the Nashville, TN, area. He holds an Mdiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ben is also an avid coffee drinker and CrossFitter, but not at the same time. Catch up with Ben at In his book, "Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint," he helps leaders through the process of putting a small group ministry together and creating a place where people belong so they can become.