There are few things more frustrating than having an idea for reaching people you are sure is going to work, and having it shot down by those responsible for deciding whether it moves forward. One it feels so crummy is because it feels like the death of that vision, because a “no” feels like an eternal “no.” That doesn’t have to be the case.

If it’s been a while since you brought it up, bring it up again. If the church actually did try the idea and it didn’t work, that doesn’t mean it will never work–though sometimes it does. Look at it again with fresh eyes. Perhaps it will work this time. There is one primary reason it might work this time–things have changed. Not people, not traditions, etc. What? The emotional processes in your church may have changed.

Sometimes decision-makers resist decisions because they are resistant to change (for a number of reasons) or you. Sometimes, what you think is a really good idea, just isn’t. In the first case, resistance is often not to the idea itself but as a result of the emotional processes afloat. In the second, sometimes we come up with ideas because of certain emotional processes within ourselves.

Clearly, sometimes a decision’s fate has nothing to do with emotional processes. It just is or isn’t a good idea. However, I’ve seen more ideas given a “no” due to personality conflict and/or the fatigue or fear of leadership than because the idea just isn’t good. In fact on a percentage basis, I’d put it as high as 80/20. Other times, people come up with a lot of ideas to “do more” not only because Christ compels them, but because some unresolved something (like guilt) compels them. You’re the issue.

The emotional processes of a church cannot and should not be ignored.  They do change. Sometimes, conditions have changed. Sometimes, it will work this time–even if it didn’t work the last time the idea got a “yes.” Why? Because “times” have changed. More correctly, the emotional processes that often determine whether an idea lives or dies and whether it is successfully implemented or poorly implemented, have changed.

I know of a church that tried to start a Spanish-speaking service and it didn’t work. So, they almost gave it a, “no” again a number of years later. “We tried that,” they said. They were right, of course. But, this time the service thrived. It didn’t thrive simply because the idea was better implemented–though it was. It thrived because the emotional processes in the church allowed the idea to be better implemented. Three things in particular had changed. There were:

  1. Better differentiated leaders making the “yes or no” decision.
  2. Better differentiated leaders proposing the decision.
  3. A healthier church implementing the decision–reducing grumbling, resistance, discouragement, and reactivity.

All three of the above factors were in place. If any one of the three hadn’t changed, the idea’s “success” would have been imperiled again.

Every now and then it’s good to go through the “no” pile. Be careful, though. That “no” pile has plenty of ideas in there that should be right there. However, don’t be surprised if now is the time to make that hire, start that ministry, etc. How do you know? Look at the emotional processes at play. If those haven’t changed–the answer won’t either. That’s actually for the best in the long run. If the processes haven’t changed, it’s better to leave viable ideas down and work on the processes first.

***This content was adapted from a previous post