The Toughest Choices

Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash

The toughest choices are not between good and bad. The most difficult decisions are when a leader must decide between better and best.
~Developing a Theology of Planning, Tony Morgan

In his well-known book, Good to Great, author Jim Collins talks about how good is the enemy to great. A lot of times, we settle for good when we could be working toward great. True greatness is not obtained because we don’t take the extra steps necessary.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are times in life when I settle. I know that something could be better, but I don’t want to put in more work. This truth is probably found easiest in my own life when it comes to yardwork.

I don’t love yardwork. It’s hot and humid. It feels tedious at times. I’ll get sunburn or really sore from the physicality of it. Not to mention the blister that will inevitably form on the inside of my thumb from using garden implements. And then, I just have to do it all over again in a couple weeks because those dang weeds keep coming back. I can do it. I can put in the work to make the lawn or the garden look good, but I don’t want to put in the extra work to make it look great.

Tony Morgan, church consultant and author, challenges leaders to think about this same concept. Some choices are easy. When we’re choosing between good and bad, it seems like a no-brainer. (Though, certainly, we know through the years that there have been more than a few church leaders that have made the bad choices in spite of their position.) These decisions aren’t really the difficult ones in ministry.

The real tricky ones are trying to decide between the good stuff and the great stuff. In reality, we want to do it all. But, we can’t. We shouldn’t. When we try to do everything, we end up doing practically nothing. Volunteers get burnt out. People are exhausted and start to disconnect. We have to do the work to really discern the best work we can do.

Visioning, mission statements, strategic plans — we can get so caught up in them that we don’t do anything else, but they are important because they help to set the tone and culture for the congregation. They can help us discern what is good and what is great for our particular context. In the end, that sometimes means turning down good opportunities. But we can’t do everything. This is true on an individual level as well as an organizational one.

You have to be able to discern the difference between the good and the great in your own life. I won’t go so far as Jim Collins and say that good is the enemy of great. But I will say we have difficult decisions to make. In the end, we can only make the best decisions for ourselves in that moment. What does that mean? It means sometimes we do need to settle for good, and that’s okay. But we’ll find more fulfillment in deciding on the great.

Ultimately, you have to decide what your priorities are, and then tailor your choices to those priorities.

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