Should I? What God has to say about the decision making process.

disciplineWe made lots of decisions every day.  Should I eat pizza for lunch?  Should I buy that new gadget?  Many of the decisions are small, but other decisions can have a huge impact on our lives.  Should I marry this person?  Should I buy this house?
What does the Bible say about making decisions?  A lot actually.  Today at Watermark, Blake Holmes shared how to apply Biblical wisdom to decision making in Part I of his series “Should I”.  Here are some quick take-aways. (NOTE:  You can listen to the entire message HERE)

1)  What biblical principals should inform my decision?

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.  Proverbs 2:6″

a) What does the Bible say about that?
b) Who can help me better understand God’s word?
c) Make sure you’re not the only one who holds this opinion of what God’s word says.
2)  Do I have all the facts?
“He who gives as answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him. Proverbs18:13″
a)  Ask a lot of questions.
b)  Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.
3)  Is the pressure of time forcing me to make a premature decision?
“Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who makes haste with his feet errs. Proverbs 19:2″
a)  Don’t let the fear of missing out drive you.
b)  When in doubt, leave it out.
c)  Have you made sure you have all the information?
4) What are the possible motives  driving my decision? 
“All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.  Proverbs 16:2″
a) Acknowledge that you have blind spots.
b) Honestly assess your motives both good and bad.
5) How should past experiences inform my decision?
“Like a dog that returns to it’s vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.  Proverbs 26:11″
a)  Look for patterns of behavior. Triggers.
b)  Understand how your family background informs your thinking.

Good Policy Matters

Imagine the scene.  You are at a dinner party with several of your good friends.  Let’s assume it’s a fancy dinner party… the dinner is served on the fine china, the good silverware is lined up perfectly, the entire setting is beautiful.  And the children are running all over the house screaming at the top of their lungs, throwing baseballs, and the 3 year old is crying because her brother just dumped the ant farm on her head.  All this fits together right?

Of course not.  That would seem crazy to have chaos in the midst of order.  You wouldn’t let children run around doing whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it.  That’s why we have rules of behavior.  Things you should and shouldn’t do in certain settings.  We’d probably all agree that we wouldn’t want to go to that kind of dinner party, so why would we want to run a business this way?

What?  That’s right.  None of us want to work for a place where there are no rules.  It sounds like fun for a while, but eventually someone ends up with an ant farm dumped on their head.

I’m really not a “policy guy”.  As a matter of fact, I much prefer freedom over policy.  However good policies are really, really, really important. Here are a few examples.

1)  You should have a good hiring policy. – Hiring people (and firing people, by the way) is a big deal.  A lot happens when someone joins or leaves an organization.  Lots of people have to do stuff.  Security, IT, Finance, HR, Facilities, Communications, all probably have to do things when someone joins staff.  Now, I’m not saying that you have to give a full month’s notice before a new person starts, but a realistic “heads up” is nice.  Every company operates differently, but let’s just say it’s easier to prepare for a new employee if you have a full week  than if you find out the day the person starts.  And that happens.  All the time.  Everywhere.  It probably took you a while to find the right person to hire.  I’m guessing the world won’t come to an end if they don’t start until NEXT week.  I know you’re excited about this “perfect hire” you just made, and we’re all super excited to meet him/her;  but it will really help everything if we have a desk, chair, computer, paperwork, and maybe even a nice desk lamp for them when they arrive.  Otherwise we are sticking them in the closet for a week.  Nobody likes being stuck in a closet.

2.  You should have a good financial policy. – We’ve all been late on expense reports.  It happens.  But it shouldn’t happen all the time because your financial people will blow a gasket.  And they should.  It’s their job to take care of the money, and by the way that’s also your job.  Good financial practices are there to protect you and the organization.  If you let people do whatever they want with money eventually one of your employees is going to take the credit card and buy a circus.  Unless your core business is, well… I don’t know… the circus, this is a bad thing.   Financial people can be considered control freaks.  It’s not because they don’t like the circus, it’s because if they are good financial people, they will often have to show what they are doing to even bigger control freaks called auditors.  These people WILL blow a gasket if they find “circus” on a reimbursement.  So listen to your financial people.  They are there to keep you safe from scary auditors.

3)  You should have a good IT policy. – Look, no one wants to change their passwords.  You’ve used the same one for the past six years and it’s written on a sticky note on the side of your monitor.  Eventually though someone is going to get into your account and either 1) send viagra ads to your friends, 2) post embarrassing pictures on your Facebook wall or 3) steal confidential employee data.  Yeah.  These are all bad.  So, take care of your computer.  Follow whatever policies that your IT people have in place.  Trust me.

These are just a few and there are plenty more. You might also consider things like a social media policy, a facility use policy, a policy around intellectual property, etc.  So now that I’ve made the case that policy can be a good thing, let’s talk about the arch-nemesis of “Policy”.  Meet… “The Exception”

Merriam-Webster defines Exception as

ex.cep.tion noun \ik-?sep-sh?n\ – a case to which a rule does not apply

We all know “The Exception” as the guy who shows up at the formal office Christmas party in pajamas. No rule applies to him/her.  This person usually works in sales.  Regardless, the exception’s only function in life is to kill policy.

You have policy so that you can have order.  And here is the kicker.  Everything is not an exception.  Let me say that again.  Everything is not an exception.  If it is…policy is dead, the exception has won, and someone just sent viagra emails AND bought a circus.  All jokes aside, this is a big deal.  Policies need to be followed.  If everything is an exception, then you really have no policy and everyone does whatever they want.

So you ask… “What if I have a policy, but nobody follows it?”  Well, now you’ve got one of two things going on.  Both are bad, BUT both can be fixed.  Either your policy is the wrong policy OR someone in the organization needs to enforce it.

Let’s start with having the wrong policy.  If people are constantly “the exception”, take a good hard look at the policy.  Is it fair?  Is it realistic?  Do people need more training to be able to do this?  Start with you.  Ask people how they feel about the policy.  Get good feedback.  Correct where necessary.  Constantly improve.

If you’ve fine tuned the policy but it’s not being followed, you have another issue to solve.  In every organization, someone has to be the chief of police.  Someone where the buck stops.  It’s probably not you, and that’s okay.  Don’t try to become that person.  It will just frustrate you (because you don’t have the authority) and frustrate others (because they see it as a power play).  So find the person in the organization who CAN enforce policy and get them to understand why this is important.  Plead your case.  Explain the risks.  Make sense of it all.  If they value your input and value the organization, you have won the day.  If not, keep trying.  If it is important enough, it is your job to see it through.  If leadership is unwilling to do what is best for the organization, you have still done your part in making the organization better.  Sleep well at night.

So policy can be a good thing, but it’s not the best thing.  Above all, give grace…   None of us are perfect, and we’re going to mess up and be “the exception” from time-to-time.  Grace is huge.  Huge.  Always, always, always put people first.  Don’t let your policies rule you, let them guide you.  There is a big difference.  Grace make ALL good policy even better.  Remember Prov. 16:1-2 “We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.”

Where have you seen good and bad policies?  What is the worst policy you’ve ever encountered.  I’d love to hear about it!

First in action, and supported by speech

Every week at Watermark, visitors have a section of our bulletin that they can tear off and let us know how we can serve them.  I love getting to hear what people think, and really love what one visitor shared this week.  I pray that we are always a church that is a church of action supported by our words.

“Speechless. I don’t really know where to start.  My first impression was “whoa, this place is big. The people all look nice and I don’t think I’ll fit in b/c I feel so dirty.” I was intimidated by its size and the appearance.  But when I heard the message, those insecurities dwindled.  The teaching is insightful, biblically sound and wise.  I am grateful that the Lord led me to Watermark.  This church is following the example set forth by Jesus Christ – First in action and supported by speech”

Thankful to be part of what God is doing through this little community of Christ followers.

Teaching Kids to Encourage Others

Everyone needs encouragement.  Sometimes it’s the little words of encouragement that get you through a rough day.  Sometimes it’s those little words of encouragement that can change the direction of a life.

This morning on the way to school, I had a chance to ask my 1st grader how she could encourage someone today.  The conversation turned into a discussion of what it means to be someone who encourages others.  She replied with examples of the things she might say to someone… “Your hair looks really pretty today”, “I really like that dress, it looks nice”, “You did a great job on that picture”, etc.  As we arrived at school, she headed off to the door and I watched her having a discussion with one of her classmates.  I was too far away to know what was said, but I could tell by the fact that they were both looking at the girl’s dress that my daughter had complimented her on how she looked.  The smile on the little girl’s face made my day.  We’ll never know, but just maybe it made her day too.

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin – Hebrews 3:13

Why Truth is better than Experience…

These are a few thoughts that Todd Wagner, Senior Pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, shared with staff today.  Some good concepts.

Why truth is better than experience:

Experience

  • Experience is inconsistent from person to person
  • Experience  can tell what happened but does not always explain why it happened
  • Experience can be “misremembered”
  • Experience can produce arrogance that isolates and separates us from others who have not endured or enjoyed similar events

Truth

  • Truth is consistent
  • Truth explains what, how and why
  • Truth is always there and can be tested
  • Truth unites and is available to everyone

Don’t let experience interpret Scripture.  Make sure Scripture interprets experience.