Decision making in groups can be pretty stressful, especially if you are the leader. How do you get everybody to decide on a direction? Then how do you comfort and encourage those who do not agree? I realize that 51% rules in politics, but I would hardly call 51% a mandate. For the rest of us, especially those of us in church leadership, 51% also tell us that 49% of the people are unhappy. Asking 49% of the people to just “suck it up and get on with life” is not very pastoral and does not lead to unity.
My goal in every decision making process is to arrive at Acts 15:28, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”
In my experience getting to a place of unity is not accomplished through majority rule decision making. Unity becomes possible when all voices can be heard and everyone is empowered to stop the process and ask questions. I will be the first to admit that this is not efficient and making a decision will require compromise from everyone.
In the last couple of months I have seen this process create unity in unexpected places. Last November I was part of a team that gathered urban leaders from across the country for a consultation in Kansas City. The leaders at this meeting represented all the political, theological and ethnic diversity that makes up the church. Just deciding where to eat was going to be difficult. Our team’s goal was to leave the meeting with a document that everyone could sign.
Last week I was part of a team interviewing candidates for a DOOR City Director. After completing the interviews, we took a quick vote to see where people were at. I was hoping that everyone was on the same page and the decision of who to hire would be quick and easy. This was not the case. The board was evenly divided. This meant I could cast the deciding vote and the losers would just have to “suck it up.” In a rare moment of clarity I did not choose this option. Instead we moved into a consensus process, allowing everyone to express their opinions and ask questions. This was not an easy process.
In both cases we were ultimately able to enjoy an Acts 15:28 moment. There is a signed document and a new city director. This did not happen because everyone got their way (consensus requires compromise), but because we created a space where everyone had an equal voice. In doing this we arrived at a place where everyone could be comfortable with what was written and decided.