Summary: There must be enough diversity to consistently uncover good amounts of possibilities. This helps to more consistently uncover decisions that Christ wants us to make, which comes by aggregating everyone’s perspectives through dialogue.
In the first post in the Consistently Wise series, I mentioned how one or a few individuals cannot consistently outperform groups when it comes to decision-making, even if they are of higher than average intelligence (or maturity) and/or are considered an expert in whatever subject is being discussed.
In the second post, I mentioned that diversity is one of the 4 conditions that must be kept in order for groups to be wise.
This need for diversity is actually WHY decisions shouldn’t be left in the hands of one or a few individuals. Simply coming to an agreement on a decision doesn’t make a group wise. This is because if the group is made up of very similar people with very similar opinions, they will tend to resemble each other in their perspectives, and in turn, the possibilities they’ll be able to come up with.
A wise church is made up of a multitude of opinions that are diverse.
Why does this diversity make a church wiser?
Because the diversity of opinions causes the church to really inspect what they’re thinking. It causes them to work through issues; to communicate, to debate, to ponder. If you have a few, similar possibilities, they’re less likely to be inspected and challenged.
How do you make sure there’s a diversity of opinion?
Uncover as many alternatives as possible, and encourage the revealing of those alternatives no matter what the possibility of success is.
It’s this simple principle called out in The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki…
Most of the ideas will be losers and you’ll want to kill them off quickly. But, by the simple act of having a ton of alternatives, your chances of picking the best possible solution go up.
It’s like baking a dessert
When it comes to how this principle applies to church decision-making, I love the analogy of baking a dessert.
To bake a dessert, you’ve got to throw a bunch of ingredients (not just one) together into a mixing bowl. All the ingredients get mixed together, put on or into something to be baked and then thrown in the oven for a specific amount of time at a specific temperature. When the amount of time is up, the dessert is done and ready for consumption.
In a church, each person brings a different “ingredient” (perspective). The “ingredients” get mixed together as people come together and dialogue. Then, the mixture gets “thrown into the oven” of patience, prayer, humility, selflessness, etc. (the heat) for as long as it takes. Sometimes it takes minutes. Sometimes it takes much, much longer.
After the dessert is baked, it comes out in a form that looks nothing like any of the individual ingredients that were put into it, or even the form in which it was placed into the oven. In the same way, the perspective that comes “out of the oven” will likely be unique and different from any one individual’s perspective.
Although this metaphor is imperfect, it helps to think about church decision-making differently than you may have ever thought about it before. Every church should be looking for Christ’s perspective on all matters – the dessert that comes out of the oven – and not the individual ingredients that are put into the mixing bowl.
Churches bake decisions together
Remember, the goal isn’t to all agree ON a decision. The real goal is to aggregate everyone’s perspectives INTO a decision. Do you see the difference? When you do this, you are much more likely to find the decision that Wisdom itself (Christ) is wanting to make.
The mindset that more mature Christians deserve a more prominent place at the decision table in a church is not of the Kingdom. Maturity alone is not enough, because maturity alone cannot guarantee you different perspectives on a problem. More mature people are necessary within the group for the church to be wise, but they are not all that’s necessary.
Side note: Watch out for “more mature” people who either believe they should make more decisions because they’re more mature, or whose goal is to include everyone in decision-making conversations, but only with their eyes on convincing everyone that their solution is the right one. Ironically, this reveals their lack of maturity.
When new members are added to the decision-making process, even if they’re less intelligent or mature, it actually makes your church wiser simply because what the new members offer is not redundant with what everyone else has to offer.
Make sure you have diversity
Here are just some of the healthy results that come from making sure you have diversity…
- There will be way less church-dividing conflict, and much more church-uniting conflict
- You live out the priesthood of ALL believers, not just one or a few
- You take away, or at least weaken, some of the destructive characteristics of group decision-making. In churches, it’s easy for a few biased individuals to exert undue influence and skew the church’s collective decisions.
- Every member is more likely to take ownership of decisions, and therefore, responsibility for them. This makes them less likely to be a free-rider within the group.
So when a church has a decision to make, it should do what it takes to lay out as many alternatives as possible. This requires open-minded dialogue where the church members facilitate together the extraction of as many alternatives as possible.
Once you’ve come up with a process that routinely lays all the possibilities out on the table, you’ve begun the journey toward making wise decisions as a church.
The rest of the posts in the Consistently Wise series are here.