I guarantee there’s a decision you’ve been putting off that if you postpone it any longer, it is going to cost you dearly.
How do I know this?
Because I have an earned doctorate from Harvard in the science of “I’m so stressed right now and have so many things coming at me and I’m kinda afraid of the potential backlash so I’m going to choose to put _______, ______, _____, and _____ out of my mind so for a while I can achieve some semblance of calm in my life right now.”
Have you enrolled in that degree program too?
I bet you have.
I bet if we sat down and did a top to bottom analysis of your life and ministry we would find not just one or two, but maybe five or six significant decisions you’ve been putting off.
That’s because inaction plagues Senior Pastors.
The Causes of Inaction
We lead underfunded volunteer organizations that put us into a constant state of playing whack-a-mole. Once we put this fire out, three more take its place. Just when we lead to Christ, disciple, and install a fantastic youth leader, he gets transferred to Topeka. Just when we get unified in one area, six more complainers peek their heads in another.
The weight and sheer exhaustion that you face as the point leader of a local church is extraordinary.
That’s why it makes perfect sense for you to occasionally put decisions off. Church leadership is not for the faint of heart.
“This will upset a lot of people.”
“Honestly, let’s just wait until the Lord reveals an answer.”
“I just don’t have peace about this decision right now.”
“We need to gather more facts.”
“We’re not ready yet.”
We say these kinds of things all the time.
The simple fact is God has placed a special group of people in the body of Christ to make decisions when there are few facts, little peace, and severe opposition.
These people are called leaders, and as a Senior Pastor, you’re one of them.
The High Price of Inaction
As a way of illustrating the negative consequences of putting off hard decisions, I always point Senior Pastors I coach to the fateful decision made by our founding fathers concerning slavery.
In 1787, when the American colonies ratified the Constitution, they were faced with a difficult problem. Many of the leaders knew that if they permanently banned slavery in the constitution, they wouldn’t be able to get some of the colonies to adopt it. So instead of doing the hard work of facing the problem head-on at the time, what did they do?
They put an article in the constitution which postponed the decision for twenty years. Article 1, Section 9 reads,
“The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight…”
You can understand their rationale. Why harm the potential unity of the states over an issue they could address later?
The problem was when they punted the football down the road, the decision became exponentially more difficult.
According to the first census of the United States, the number of slaves in the United States in 1790 was 694,207. Twenty years later, around the time when they would need to “finally” make the decision to end slavery or not, that number had grown 39% to 1,130,781. Then by 1860, that number grew to 3,950,546.
Rather than addressing the problem head on in 1787, the inaction of our founding fathers brought FIVE TIMES as many slaves to the United States and eventually cost 620,000 lives in a bloody Civil War to “finally” settle the issue.
Here’s the thing: there are always unintended consequences to inaction, and they’re almost always terrible in nature.
Consider the cost of inaction when we Senior Pastors remain indecisive in the following three areas.
Not Firing Staff
One of the first things I do when I begin coaching a Senior Pastor is perform a complete staff analysis. One by one we’ll analyze each staff member by asking one simple question: when your church doubles in size, will this person still be able to lead in this role? If the answer is no, then that person needs another seat on the bus, or needs to go altogether.
Here’s the thing: if they can’t lead in that seat when you’re twice your current size, then they’re not going to help you get to twice your size. The cost of keeping them in that role dramatically reduces your ability to fulfill the Great Commission as a church. Add in the year of transition it takes to find, train and deploy a new staff member, the cost of your inaction is massive.
Not Preaching On Hard Topics
While this website is dedicated to providing practical tools for leaders in the trenches (hence why I rarely discuss theology), I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the cost of inaction when it comes to preaching on hard things. Every time I preach on what the Bible teaches on homosexuality people literally stand up and storm out of the room. People literally get up and leave likes it’s a bad movie.
Listen, you must preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2). You must teach on the hard things. You must be willing to lose people. Over the last year, I’ve preached on what the Bible says about war, terrorism, bakers serving gays in Indiana, guns, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, transgenderism, sex, and the worst scourge to face our country in years: country music (Sorry. Bad Joke. I’m more of a Jack Johnson kind of guy).
As hard as we’ve worked over the years to reach people far from God, we’ve undoubtedly turned away at least as many people as we’ve spoken the truth to in love. And I’m perfectly fine with that. Remember, our goal isn’t to grow the churches we serve. Our goal is to make disciples. Growth is the by-product of the goal. The cost of inaction in this area? That’s simple: avoid hard things, and you become spiritually brittle as a body. Period.
Not Having a Competitive Compensation Structure
We know we’re not in this for the money. None of us went into the ministry to get wealthy. We understand sacrifice. But I can’t tell you how many Senior Pastors I coach have leadership boards filled with great people who don’t know how to pay them appropriately.
You need a written pay scale in place based on comps from other churches your size and budget. You need to take into consideration your region and denomination. Most important, every position in your church needs to find its place on that scale. I would encourage you to go to MinistryPay.com and work alongside your leaders to set up a fair compensation structure that will grow with you as a church.
There are lots of other decisions that Senior Pastors punt down the field, but I find that because of our desire to not appear greedy, we simply avoid this topic altogether. Stop it. Besides going broke and having nothing in retirement, the cost of inaction for Senior Pastors who postpone addressing this is huge. When you avoid this topic your leadership culture remains bush league. To grow you need to create professional systems in your organization, and that includes financial ones.