This week, Jonty Allcock (Senior Pastor of the Globe Church and Co-Mission board member) urges church leaders to respond wisely in the face of relentless decision-making. All of us could learn from these same principles.
I love our elders’ meetings. A few weeks ago, one of our elders made a comment that I found extremely helpful to think through. He talked about ‘decision fatigue’. I know this concept is probably obvious, but for me it was a light-bulb moment.
I have heard many people say that they have found lockdown exhausting. The same is true even of individuals whose lives have become less busy, with less travel, less meetings and so on.
There are all sorts of reasons for this exhaustion but one is the constant need to keep making decisions. Back when life was normal, we knew how things worked; we knew our routines and our patterns. But all of that has been thrown out and instead we are constantly having to think about what we will do, how we will do it and whether it is the right thing.
I have found that as a pastor. It has been a relentless few months of making decisions about things that often I feel ill equipped to make. Decision-making is tiring.
And as I look to the next few months, it seems this scenario is only set to increase. With the easing of restrictions this weekend, we now face a whole new load of decisions. When and how should we restart services? And small groups? Or should we keep going online?
The idea of decision fatigue helps me to have more realistic expectations. There is a part of me that feels decision-making shouldn’t be that hard. I feel the pressure to lead with clarity and confidence. But hearing that phrase in an elders’ meeting has helped me see things differently.
Here are four ways I want to encourage you in the light of decision fatigue:
1. Embrace your tiredness
Let it remind you that you are not God. Perhaps we might learn the reality of Isaiah 40:30–31 in a fresh way:
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Take time to rest and hope in God. It is not spiritually virtuous to push on through tiredness as if we are superman and can handle everything. Make sure you have a holiday this summer. Even if you can’t go away, have time away from the relentless decision-making. If we feel we can’t do that, then we are in danger of acting as if we are God; we are not.
2. Use your elders
Decisions become easier when we make them with others. God has established the elders in your church in order to share the burden of leadership. Sometimes, in our desire to be a strong and decisive leader, we can end up disempowering our elders. They are not supposed to be a sounding board who ratify our decisions. They are supposed to be our brothers who share the burden of leadership. We will need that in the coming weeks. If you don’t have elders who can help, let me encourage you to contact your cluster leader within Co-Mission who will chat about how we could help.
3. Be patient with your church family
Lots of your church family will be feeling tired too. One way we can be kind is by not giving too many options and decisions that they need to make. I made the mistake at the start of lockdown of giving our small-group leaders the freedom to decide about when and how to meet. It was well intentioned, but it led to several of them becoming very tired as every week they were having to make decisions.
Simple, clear and gentle guidance will really help people. Loads of options, suggestions and changes will tire people out.
4. It is ok to be slow
We will face pressure to act and make decisions, but the reality is that often we don’t know what is best. That is ok. To rush off in one direction and then suddenly have to change again will be more exhausting in the long run. Watch others and see what they do; we are planning to copy what we heard another Co-Mission church is doing. But don’t feel under pressure to act too fast.
Brothers, I am praying that as you hope in the Lord, you will renew your strength.