The Leader’s Dilemma: Are You an Answer Guy or a Discovery Guide?

Recently I was asked a question in an email about an apparent discrepancy in the Bible.

I answered it.

And then I got to thinking:  Instead of answering it, what might have happened if I would have led my friend to some resources and supported him as he searched for the answer himself?

Now, I’m not suggesting that every time someone asks me a question, I should avoid answering it, and put the onus back on them.  However, often as ministry leaders,  we play the role of “answer guy” or “answer girl” and in the process keep people from owning their own journey to discovery.

If our goal is to encourage, empower, and equip missionaries, we need to grow in our ability to discern when to simply answer people, and when to lead them to discover for themselves.

Here are four thoughts to consider as you decide whether you will answer or not:

1)  Adults learn when they have to.

Let our first inclination be that of providing support for people where they show a passion to learn.  Let’s not take the growth that comes in the journey away from them.

Ask:  Is this question I’m being asked a Divine moment full of growth potential, or is it a simple question with little real upside for growth?

2)  People grow as teachers when they put effort into their own learning.

Retention is more probable if I go through the journey myself.

Ask:  Is the person asking me the question likely to share the answer I am about to give with someone else?

3)  To give a simple answer is often easier.

I’m busy.  Sometimes it’s just simpler to give the answer and move on.

Ask:  Am I tempted to give the answer because I need to move on with my day?

4)  If I work harder to find the answer for someone than the one asking the question does, something is wrong.

The way we handle these situations can either reproduce consumeristic dependency or personal ownership.  I realize many leaders in the church today like to be needed.  But, God calls us to make disciples.  This is our missional calling.

Ask:  Is there value for the person who is asking the question to engage in their own learning and discovery?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer

I am Jeff Meyer, and I start fires. Ever since that basketball game in college when I came off the bench and lit a spark for my team, I have carried the nickname "Fire Meyer." (Until that point in my career my jersey #22 never saw the floor in an actual game. Perhaps the #22 was a symbol of my life calling: 2 Timothy 2:2?) I live to see sparks ignited and connections made. I long to see the church wake up and live. I long to see Jesus-followers display passionate commitment to Jesus. Jesus' invitation to follow Him was an adventure of epic proportions. Can we recapture that today? I long to see communities transformed into healthy places of wholeness. I believe that communities are transformed when Jesus-followers are stoked and respond. Perhaps you've heard it said that the church is the hope of the world. I believe that a responsive Jesus-follower is the hope of the world. "Igniting connections" is my way of setting off some inspirational sparks; sparks that ignite a passionate response to the call of Jesus.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

VRcurator — 04/12/13 6:37 am

Thanks Daniel! I've always liked the "leadership math" of multiplication more than just addition!

Daniel Im — 04/11/13 10:09 pm

Great thoughts!! Could I add one? By encouraging leaders to discover for themselves you are actually helping them grow in the skills of multiplication. You are helping them learn how to do the same thing to others.

Jeff Meyer — 04/11/13 2:19 pm

Have to often leads to want to. It seems that few are proactive. Espcially when it comes to the Kimgdom of God...we are often motivated out of desperate need. Thanks for the post!

J.R.Briggs — 04/08/13 6:37 pm

Jeff. Good, thought-provoking post. One thought though for number 1: would it best be worded "Adults learn when they want to"? Have to and want to are different (although in situations they can be similar, the implications are quite different). I'd love to hear your thoughts as we explore - and hopefully discover - more together. Thanks in advance. J.R.

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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