What Makes Hard Decisions Hard for Leaders? (Hint: It’s Not What You Think)


Why didn’t someone tell me that hard decisions would be so, well, hard?  And would I have believed them if they had told me?  

I remember when God called me into the lead pastorate, I buckled for about 18 months.  I was serving in a church in South Florida with people I dearly loved.  But that call.  I couldn’t shake it.  Jesus had me, and there was nothing I could do about it. To refuse was to consign myself to a lifetime of misery.  To receive that call was opening myself to a position of leadership that I knew adversely affected many who then left.

I used to be pretty hard on pastors–until I became one. Now? Now, I get it. While I and our church are in a great season, I have had a number of seasons where decisions needed to be made that I tried to wish away. Wishing them away almost did me in.

It’s easy and understandable to question the motives of leaders, especially if you’ve been hurt by one. There’s been times when tough decisions have affected my sleep, affected my health, and (worst of all) affected people. That’s one of the reasons that, when it came to people, I would often move more slowly than other leaders I knew. If some have a staff issue?  Then they would ‘throw the bum out.’ Vision issue?  They would tell the people that if they can’t get on board, let them find another church.

And the beat goes on. Their vision matters more than their people did. 

Bleh. No thanks.

But this is how many perceive every leader. Many who have seen leaders act this way react by going the polar opposite direction. But that’s not helpful to a church either.

All leaders function with their own pain.  I’m coming upon the three year anniversary of one of my best friends dying.  He was a pastor. Who committed suicide. That particular year was extremely difficult, and made decision making at my church next to impossible for me. I worked my best to help others who were struggling with life and ministry to make sure they didn’t hit the edge as well. If my friend could commit suicide, then what could happen to others around me who seemed to struggle?  

And so I avoided hard decisions that I knew had to be made because my pain threshold had hit its limit. I worked with some all day and into the night trying to help them sort out their issues.  In the middle of a very difficult time about three months later, I hit a wall. I remember struggling to get out of bed because I knew what the day would bring (or, more accurately, I had no idea what the day would bring). God had to grab me by the scruff of the neck to remind me of the nature of my calling. 

The pain wouldn’t go away. I had to lead. Regardless of the pain.

You cannot avoid hard decisions. If one needs making and you make it by prayer and by seeking out God’s wisdom, then some may question and even dislike you, but you followed God’s leading as well as possible.  If you avoid making a hard decision, you’ve already made the hard decision by avoiding it. You’ll lose yourself, your church, and your close fellowship with God because you will not be the shepherd He’s called you to be.


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