Decision Making When Risk is Involved

Some ministry decisions are riskier than others. For instance, the decision to build a new worship center will require much prayerful input and carry a fair amount of risk. Deciding whether to continue a long tenured program at the church may carry a different type of risk — nonetheless a significant one.  

While reading a book on leadership recently, I came across a list of questions that were helpful for decision making — especially when there is a risk involved. The list is attributed to Ozan Varol from the book Think Like a Rocket-Scientist. I am not familiar with the book or the author, but these questions may provide another level of thoughtful due diligence when making an important decision.  

1. What’s the best possible outcome? If we say ‘yes’ to a proposal or ministry opportunity, what is the best thing that could happen? This is an opportunity to dream with your decision-making team and think about what the Lord may do if you say ‘yes’ to a decision. Could you reach more people? Could you pave the way for more families to make their way into the church? Could you set up the ministry for future years of service? It is always wise to imagine what the “wins” may be from a potential venture.  

2. What’s the worst thing that could happen? If we are going to look at the potential upside of a decision, we should also consider the downside. What could go wrong? Risk assessment does not negate the call to say ‘yes’ to God’s clear leadership, but it may allow us to go into it with open eyes. The risks could include people leaving the church or ministry or spending limited resources on something that may not get the desired results. I remember reading about Dr. Jeff Iorg discussing what he referred to as a terrible ministry idea called “Bank Day.” It was so bad that he wouldn’t even describe the event for fear that someone may try and improve upon it. It is always good to consider the downside of  important decisions.  

3. What would I do if that worst thing happened? This question allows for a contingency plan to be put in place. For instance — when planning an outdoor evangelistic event in Kentucky in the spring, the planners would be wise to plan for what to do if it rains. Asking questions about what to do if 40 or 50 people leave the church because of this decision can be helpful. Again, knowing the downside should not preclude us from following God’s clear commands, but it may allow us and those who follow our leadership to be more prepared when the outcomes are less than desirable.  

4. What are the consequences of doing nothing? I think this question is especially helpful for those  who try to lead organizations to help others fully engage in the Great Commission. There is a consequence of doing nothing. God has given us gifts, resources and opportunities. The Lord wants us to engage a lost world with the gospel. One clear consequence of doing nothing is that many people may not have access to the gospel.  

Of course, every Christian has far more to work with than a list of questions like the ones above when making decisions. We have the Holy Spirit, who guides us in accordance with God’s word. We have the collective wisdom of God’s people and direction that comes through seeking the Lord in prayer. Along with those greater things, maybe this list can help you as you are working through a decision today.  

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