I’ve learned that silence in the eldership means disapproval. These words were spoken to me by a church leader who made a proposal to his fellow elders. When no one responded and everyone looked around with blank stares, he knew the idea was dead in the water. It wasn’t that he minded divergent opinions; he simply struggled to understand why a mere discussion about the idea seemed so far away.
I am convinced this scenario is played out time and again because of the way we view the adoption of a new idea – up or down. Leadership groups are often held captive to the belief that most decisions are either/or propositions. Why not make room for both/and, for the refinement of an idea through healthy discussion to produce an even better idea?
Here’s a suggestion: Instead of trying to get a group of leaders to arrive at a decision by way of a simple up or down vote, ask each member for a 1-5 vote. Here’s what we mean:
I’m all in, let’s go.
I’m all in, but I have a question or two.
I need a little more time.
I’m not for it, but I won’t work against it.
I’m not for it, and I’ll work against it.
This kind of vote is helpful to gauge the temperature of the group. If there are mostly 1’s and 2’s, the likelihood of the decision looks hopeful. If a group member indicates a 3, then it is helpful to ask patiently, “How much time do you need?” If there are mostly 4’s and 5’s, the best advice is to wait a while, take time for conversation and for prayer. The wise Solomon said, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5). Such an approach puts us on the path toward creating a shared vision versus the adoption of an idea that may not have been subjected to all necessary reflection. It also honors the efforts of one bringing the idea to the table, whether adopted or not. Through meaningful conversation and mutual respect, leaders will most likely discover a better way forward.