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
I love Ed's writings and heart. I am frustrated by these articles, however. Much of the missiological basis of the Church Growth Movement are not mentioned, and the origination of the formulas are not substantiated. Also, the Movement via Wagner, started mentioning the importance of health over 3o years ago. I wish these articles were better researched and less sweeping in their generalizations. Things like E1, E2, E3 evangelism, group multiplication, relational networks, faith, health, and the care to measure the right things are largely missing here. Perhaps Ed has earned the right to generalize, but I still was disappointed. But keep researching Ed! Ed and Thom have continued on in the spirit of the movement by doing quality research, and for that I am deeply grateful.
 
— Gary Westra
 
This discussion will continue, for sure. I am tasked with the online worship ministry do our church at FBC Trussville and it is proving to be an important piece of the overall ministry. As in most things In life and technology, balance is in order. Many of our older adults prefer the "live" service online rather than a week or even day-later DVD or downloaded service. They tell me it is important for them to be a part while the service occurs. This is key because if a person simply wanted the message or music or to see the pastor because they "like" him, then it would not need to be live. There is a sense with our people that they need to experience the worship with their church family in real time. Theologically, folks will have issues. This is a disruptive technology for church. But I would hope that before we toss it all away we would approach it with wisdom and humility. Personally, I would like to see the Church grow through small, cost-effective ways like this and not just brick-and-mortar.
 
— Robby
 
It seems this was written awhile ago but I would like to respond. Mr. Surratt makes great points. Points that should be taken seriously by all churches. I just do not think these points are the main reason people are not coming back to churches. Who knows the exact reason why anyone does not come back unless they tell you, but I can say with certainty the reasons I do not return are usually the same. 1. Love, tolerance, and acceptance. (unbelievers, baby Christians) Church members seem to want their guests or potential members to behave a certain way. They want them to conform to the system that is already in place. In some ways this is understandable. In other ways, it is isolating to the guest. They want to feel loved and accepted the way they are. They want to be told everything is ok no matter their past. They want to be given time to work out their immediate more pressing issues without having to worry about what to wear and how to talk (church speak). 2. Love, tolerance, and acceptance (believers, unchurched) Many times, these people are looking for what fits their already preconceived ideas of what "good churches" are. These preconceived notions are difficult to overcome and some of them were addressed in Mr. Surratt's article. But I can tell you that a truly loving, a truly tolerant, and a truly accepting church can overcome most of these things. You may never be able to overcome a taste in music, or a theological difference, but most everything else can be healed with Love. 3. People can see the business aspect of the church. I see it almost immediately when I walk into certain churches for the first time. I think people understand that a church has many aspects of itself that are business oriented. I just believe they dont want to experience these aspects when they visit. How many churches are so focused on growth, in numbers of bodies, that they forget the growth of the heart? The American church is now fully Americanized. Its a show and a numbers game. People come to church, especially new comers, CRAVING to fill a void in their life. If you are offering the same thing they can get in the real world, how are you any different? There are plenty of other reasons people do not return and many may not be avoidable. However, the church as a whole needs to reevaluate the arena in which they are playing. The simplicity of the Gospel is good enough to fulfill the hearts of the unbelievers and restore the prodigal's to a relationship with Christ. Love thy neighbor as thyself and love thy God with all your heart.
 
— Shay Wallace
 

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