How do you discern whether God is leading you to accept a new leadership role?
The past couple months I was asked this question – or something very similar – a half dozen times. Each time the context was a little different.
- A pastor considering a call to another church.
- An elder being asked to join the launch team of a new church start.
- A pastor weighing nomination to a District position.
- A deacon praying over leading a second campus, under the supervision of a pastor.
I’ll share my discernment process. You’ll have the same opportunity at the end of the post.
Form a Prayer Team
Once learning about a potential opportunity, my natural tendency is to start researching. At this stage of life, I suppress that urge and form a small prayer team instead. I turn to my wife and two or three trusted friends. I commit to providing them regular updates; they commit to regular prayer.
Understand the Opportunity
Christian leaders are all over the map when it comes to learning about opportunities to serve. Some research so thoroughly they could become consultants. Others do no research, trusting in God the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
I research until I’m confident I have a clear understanding of what the church or faith-based organization wants and needs. Most importantly, I study until I grasp the experience and skills essential to lead the organization into its next season.
Seek God’s Guidance through Scripture
I choose select Bible books to read daily during the discernment process. When I was called to serve as a missionary, I read the Book of Acts. A call to an established church moved me to read First and Second Timothy.
While reading the Scripture, I journal my thoughts and impressions. I especially write down anything that might apply to the potential future opportunity.
Discuss the Opportunity as a Family
Emotionally enmeshed families often feel the need for consensus on decisions. Emotionally distant families are more likely to expect one person to make the call. The key understanding your family dynamics and respecting how your family communicates.
Within that dynamic, practice active listening. Give each person in the family the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings, if they so desire. Personally, I think it is very important not to shift the weight of the decision to children. This is almost always unintentional, but I’ve seen it happen.
Seek God’s Guidance through Wise Counsel
I lean heavily on mature brothers and sisters who know me well in the discernment process. I may also approach mature Christians who know the ministry opportunity well.
I do not ask my advisors what I should do. Instead, I ask questions such as…
- In your view, how well do my experiences and skills match up with the new opportunity?
- From your perspective, what more needs to be done in my current ministry?
- What am I not seeing as I consider this opportunity?
Sit on the Decision
This entire process is about discerning where God would have a Christian leader serve. I have a couple of friends who steadfastly maintain God audibly gave them direction on calls. For the vast majority of us, we’re left to sense God’s will.
For that reason, I make the decision five days before I will share the decision publicly. That same day, I tell God what I intend to do. I also tell my wife what I intend to do.
If I’m at peace five days after making the decision, I announce the decision.
If I’m not at peace, I change the decision, and proceed with the announcement.
In 25 years of ministry, I’ve not experienced peace with a decision three times. Twice when I decided to accept calls, once when I determined to decline a call.
What additional steps do you have in discerning whether to accept a leadership role? Share them in the comments or shoot me an email.