The New York Times recently ran an article entitled, “Are You Suffering From Decision Fatigue?” The article summarizes what we all know. Modern life is complicated. We go through each day making decision after decision after decision. Easy decisions like what to wear today. Conflictual decisions such as what is the best curfew from my teenager. Financial decisions like which bills to pay this month? Emotionally gut wrenching decisions like should I stay in this marriage? Quality of life decisions such as do I stay in my home or go to assisted living? End of life decisions – is it time to call hospice? It’s enough to drive us over the edge or what the writer calls “Decision Fatigue”.
All of this made me think of life in a small church. Are we suffering from church decision fatigue? Council meetings and team meetings are an endless list of decisions to be made. Small churches probably make the same number of monthly decisions as large churches: Who does this? Who does that? How do we pay for this and how do we pay for that? The difference is that in small churches the number of decision makers is much smaller and the consequences of the decisions are much greater. In small churches our decisions often seem like life and death. Is this the month we make the wrong decision and cause the death of the church?
The NY Times article points out that decision fatigue often causes us to confabulate small decisions into matters of life and death (in reality they are not). This causes physical, emotional and spiritual distress. It’s not surprising that the word “decide” comes from the same Latin word as “homicide” and “suicide” to kill or cut down. Endless decision making can seem like the death of a thousand cuts.
I confess! I am suffering from “Church Fatigue”. I am not alone. I see it in the eyes of council members and team leaders who work tirelessly so we can have a nice church. We have too few people willing to serve on council. At the same time, the decisions made by council are becoming more difficult with greater consequences (often met with criticism by those who choose not to serve). The article tells us what we all know. When we are mentally depleted we become entrenched in our own point of view, short tempered with those around us and vulnerable to irrationality. In other words we become our own worst enemy. We either make bad decisions or we become stuck and make no decision at all. With every bad decision, and no decision, the feelings of fatigue become greater and greater.
What are we to do? Take a breath. The fate of the church is not in our hands. God is in charge. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Don’t ask someone to do a job you can do. Let’s look for ways to give positive feedback (give a little praise). Let go and trust God. Look for ways to put God back into our meetings. Have a little fun and let’s remember the weight of the world is not really on our shoulders. Take a vacation, by the way, is what I am going to do. I’ll be out of the office for the next two weeks. See you when I’m back.
Rev. Sam Wyatt