by Jay Bransford
If you’re from my generation and culture, you may have read the title of this article and suddenly found yourself singing an old tune. For the rest of you, you may have immediately found yourself thinking about a difficult ‘yes’ or ‘no’ life decision you’ve had to make or that you are currently facing. My apologies to all you fans of “The Clash”, but this article focuses on the latter.
Should I move to Nepal?
Should I take a School of Biblical Studies?
Should I say ‘yes’ to an offer to join an exciting new ministry?
Should I staff the next DTS?
Should I start a BAM business to be self-supporting?
What do all of these questions have in common? Yes, they all have the word “Should” in them. In addition, they are all closed ended questions with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
If you’re like 99% of the rest of us, you’ve probably asked yourself questions very similar to these in the past. They often represent BIG decisions that can change the course of our lives. It’s these kinds of big decisions that we want to make sure we get right. Do you agree?
So how do you go about making a decision about an important ‘yes or no’ question like these? Here are 3 suggestions…
Question the Urgency
Start by asking yourself how urgent it really is to make a final decision. Often times an external deadline or self-imposed deadline is staring us in the eyes, and seems to be screaming for a quick answer. For example:
- The DTS in Bangkok starts in 2 months and I have to tell the leader if I will staff the school by next Friday.
- The application for the School of Biblical Studies I’m considering attending is due in 1 week. I have to decide today if I’m going to attend it or not.
- There is a ministry opportunity I’ve been offered to join in Nepal and I want to decide if I will join it by the end of this month.
- By the end of this year I need to tell my supporters if I’m going to become self-supported through a BAM ministry or not.
You may have noticed that some of those situations involved a self-imposed deadline, while others related to a deadline given from someone else. But whether the deadline comes from you or from another person, it is helpful to remember that you don’t have to make a life-changing decision just because there is a deadline involved. It is OK to pass on an opportunity because you’re not ready to make a final decision. Making a decision out of haste or due to the pressure of a deadline may not give you the time you need to make a good, well-reasoned, and well-prayed-out decision. If at any time you face a decision where you don’t feel you have sufficient time allowed to be at peace with the process you used to make your decision, then give yourself permission to wait, to ask for more time, or to totally pass on the opportunity. Don’t let time urgency be your decision maker. Your decision should be between you and God – not between you and a time clock. The same goes for those of you who can’t make a final decision UNTIL someone gives you a deadline.
Widen the Net
Whenever possible, try to avoid ‘yes or no’ decisions altogether. What do I mean by that? A ‘yes or no’ decision generally means that we are only considering one possible option. We’re trying to decide if we should choose that option or not. So what’s the problem with only considering one option? Answer: it gives you virtually nothing to compare to. You’re not giving yourself any other options to evaluate against. Often times when we only give ourselves one option, we back ourselves into a corner with the decision. We will often choose that option, even if we shouldn’t, because there’s no better option to choose. For example, remember that decision about whether to staff a DTS in Bangkok? Well, why don’t I consider staffing any other DTSs? In any given month, there are many, many DTSs starting all over the world – even possibly in other parts of Thailand. What if one of those DTSs could serve my needs and goals better? If I only consider one option, my choices are so limited that if I really feel strongly about staffing a DTS, I’m likely to say ‘yes’ to the one and only choice I give myself.
What is the solution? Widen the net. That means you need to identify more options to select from.
- How many other DTSs could you consider?
- What other SBSs could you consider?
- What other countries could you consider moving to?
- What other methods of supporting yourself in missions could you consider?
As you widen the net of options, you will find it will be easier to see which of those options best fulfills your needs and wants. And you won’t feel trapped in a corner, feeling that you only have one possible choice or face doing nothing at all. That’s an unfair position to put yourself in. Widen the net of options to consider.
Remember the Status Quo
Hopefully by now you have identified more than one option to choose from and thus you are no longer facing a ‘yes or no’ decision. Perhaps you have 2, 3, 4 or more alternatives you are considering. Guess what? Choosing none of your options is always one of your possible options! Are you currently working with a ministry? Well, you might be able to keep doing that. Are you in-between ministries and have nothing to do? Well, you can keep doing nothing for a period of time! Are you back in your home country trying to figure out life? Well, you can take more time to figure it out. You don’t have to staff any of the DTSs you identified. You don’t have to attend any of the SBSs you found on the YWAM.org website. You don’t have to move to any of your possible choices of Nepal, China, India, or Mongolia. And you don’t have to join any of the ministries you’re currently considering. You can choose to keep doing what you’re doing now or to even do nothing for a time while you consider more options. One of the biggest pressures we put on ourselves sometimes is that pressure of HAVING to choose amongst our current options. Sometimes God wants us to wait on our decision. If you aren’t comfortable with any of your current options, that might be a sign to wait for God’s better ‘yes’ around the corner.
* For more resources from the ALLC to help you with Decision Making, click here.