Every church leader, lay or volunteer, is full of experiences, information and skills accumulated over a lifetime in ministry and/or business. We use our storehouse of experiences, information and skills to solve problems and make decisions.
The net result is that we each have developed a set of “answers” to the various problems we have encountered over our lifetime. And, we tend to draw upon those answers for solutions to new problems and decisions we face.
Unfortunately, this bias toward our past personal experience, knowledge and skills can limit our effectiveness and efficiency in prioritizing, problem solving and decision making.
Why Answers In Search of Problems Leadership Can Be Limiting
Limit #1 – The Problems We Do and Don’t See: First, the sum total of our experiences, information and skills influences the kind of problems or situations we recognize as important enough to address. We are prone to try and solve only those problems or make those decisions for which we know the answer. As there are always more problems to address and more decisions to make than we have answers for, we run the risk of ignoring or delaying more important problems and decisions.
Limit #2 – Problem Analysis: Second, our lifetime of experiences, information and skills allows us to analyze some problems and situations and offer the proper course of action. Still other problems and situations require a different set of experiences, information and skills, yet we tend to analyze these and develop actions steps in terms of the answers we have developed over the years. This can cause us to misjudge a problem and offer the wrong solution.
How Answers In Search Of Problems Leadership Plays Out In The Local Church
The Personnel Committee: The incoming Personnel Committee Chairman comes from an HR background where a Human Resource Director is integral to the business model. Therefore, she sees that all of the church’s personnel problems can be addressed by hiring a Human Resource Director. This may or may not be true, but her experiences, knowledge and skills make her blind to other staffing options that may be more effective or have greater priority in accomplishing the mission of the church.
The Finance Committee: The members of the Finance Committee are mostly CPA’s, bankers and financial planners. They come from a similar background of experiences and knowledge that suggests having a large reserve is a prudent fiduciary responsibility. This solution may prove to be prudent if there is a financial downturn, but may also result in the church having an overly large reserve and being unable to fund mission critical initiatives.
Deacons and Elders: The incoming Deacon or Elder Chairman is a life-long Small Groups Bible Study Teacher. His experience, knowledge and passion influences him to declare that the church should emphasize, elevate and promote Small Groups in the coming year to spur growth. This answer to the problem of Small Group Bible Study growth may prove to help, or it may cause the church leadership to miss there is a larger more important issue that is impacting growth.
Church Staff: Upon arrival at his new church a staff member surveys the many short comings in the processes and systems in the ministries he oversees. He immediately observes the First Impressions Ministry needs shoring up and so jumps in with the solutions he provided at his last church. These solutions may work wonders, or they might not fit the culture or the context. Worse, there may be other more vital problems to be solved that are ignored while he devotes time to the First Impressions Ministry.
Avoiding the Pitfalls of Answers in Search of Problems Leadership
Recognizing that we all tend to practice Answers in Search of Problems Leadership is a good first step. The second step is to realize that we all have limited perceptions based upon our experiences, knowledge and skills. The third step is to recognize that the more problems we can solve the more effective leaders we will be.
These realizations should prompt us to consider the following sources of additional experiences, knowledge and skills:
- Self-Development: The more varied and diverse your experiences, knowledge and skills the more effective you will be as a problem solver and decision maker. This is one reason why church leaders should prioritize their personal development.
- Teams or Committees: Glean the insights, advice and counsel of others into the situation, problem or decision to broaden perspective beyond your own.
- Consultants: Enlist an outside third party expert to provide fresh eyes.
- Research: Read books, trade journals and web pages for additional insights and alternatives
Posted on June 28, 2016