How Leaders Can Find Rest Amid Decision Fatigue
Dr. James Emery White Dr. James Emery White's weblog
- 2021 Feb 01
The executive director of a denominational network of churches was asked to pinpoint some of the pressure points pastors and church leaders are facing during this extended pandemic. I found his answer insightful:
“There are a number of issues that we have identified; one is decision fatigue. What is happening is that the landscape is changing so quickly that from the time a decision is made early in the week, oftentimes they’ve had to make changes to those decisions before the week is over.”
I hadn’t heard that phrase before, but it’s spot-on. And I don’t know of any leader of any kind – business, education, media – who hasn’t found themselves dealing with a fair bit of it. Speaking for myself, I’ve never before had to call so many “audibles” during a season of leadership in my life.
And it can be wearying for any number of reasons: 1) the speed by which you have to make the decision; 2) the knowledge that some will like it, and some won’t; 3) the implications of making the wrong decision; and 4) knowing the impact your decision may have on the lives of others.
So how can anyone who is having to make more decisions than ever during this season – and feeling the “decision fatigue” as a result – find some rest and even confidence at the end of a day?
First, pray. Specifically, pray for wisdom and discernment. The more you pray over a decision, the more confident you can be that you have made – or will make – the right one.
Second, resist. Specifically, resist external pressures that might affect your decision-making that are motivated by such things as partisan politics, bad theology, fear, anxiety or personal felt needs. It’s not that some external pressures aren’t worthy of being taken into account; just never allow yourself to make a decision simply because of external pressure. Leaders are meant to lead.
Third, maintain. Specifically, maintain a clear sense of true north in terms of mission, vision and values. There is much talk these days of what we “can” do or “want” to do, but less talk of what we “should” do. Always go with “should.”
Fourth, think. Specifically, think long term about your decisions. Yes, much of the “decision fatigue” is how we are being faced with so many immediate decisions affecting the short term. But the more your short-term decisions can be informed by long-term thinking, the better they will be. Make it a discipline to ask yourself the “10-10-10” questions: What will the effect of this decision be in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years?
Finally, trust. Specifically, trust God. Even if hindsight may prove that some of your decisions weren’t ideal, you can trust that God will not abandon you as a leader and will meet less-than-ideal decisions with fresh grace and mercy if you have the humility to own them.
James Emery White
Diana Chandler, “Pastors Express ‘Decision Fatigue,’ ‘Ministerial Frustration’ as COVID-19 Pandemic Lingers,” Baptist Press, January 25, 2021, read online.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/4maksym
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His forthcoming book After “I Believe” is now available for preorder on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.