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?

Read more from Jeff here.
Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Process >


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.

See more articles by >


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
Priesthood of all believers....I believe it, but if its not, in your unhelpful words, the "talented leader who explains the Bible" who does? Who is explaining the bible to the priesthood? If its not the pastor, then fire him and hire the other guy.... You may answer, "the priesthood should be reading the bible for themselves"..."the priesthood is able to go directly to God"... TRUE, BUT many, including many clergy, aren't interested in God or if they are feel stupid that they cant read the bible or know how to see and hear from God for themselves thru his word. Where does that leave us? Who helps these people? Thats what discipleship is...clergy leading a deliberate pursuit of a few and helping them see God for themselves in scripture and see it transform their lives...and multiply into the lives of others. But you seem to argument against that..... 1. You hate Centralized Spirituality saying its Unhealthy: The big idea you seem to be driving at was the "de-centralizing" of clergies role while simultaneously asking for a discipleship system to be constructed....who is responsible to construct this system if not the clergy whom the church has entrusted with that role? 2. You dont think that "God planned for one person to disciple an entire church, and He didn’t design us to grow via mass discipleship." So if not one person ( a church that budgets for one pastor) or a staff of vocational pastors (a church that allocates rescues for multiple pastors) who drives this? of course there are other leaders but who is at the center? 3. Seems obvious, but you said Discipleship Thrives in Spiritual Small Groups...yes but how is this small group system managed? There is no way you say, just go do small groups and see what happens right? Study what you want, who cares who leads, who cares who comes, figure it out by yourself...youre a priest good luck! There is a checks and balances system that would be helpful right? There is support, there is direction....Who is the gatekeeper determining the quality of the group and supporting, encouraging and driving its health? all questions that I hope are helpful for the church, the article seems like its trying to give easy answers to an incredibly challenging idea. It seems to be attacking clergy rather than helping them see the enormity of what the people of God and God himself have entrusted to them. Help pastors step into the role of discipler, being supported by the elders, and investing their lives and conversations into helping people see God thru scripture deliberately and consistently...unwavering to any fad or program that may distract us.
— david bartosik
This resonated strongly with me. My pastor, a strong, wise, intelligent, and compassionate woman in her 40's, made the decision to take on my church almost 3 years ago. We were a very small, struggling congregation, facing closure. In our interview with her, we were very clear about the reality of our situation, and offered her an interim position, thinking that we would be closing very soon. She chose, instead, to be our called pastor, despite the odds facing her. She has gone over, above, and beyond in helping us stay afloat, but this has come at a great price, emotionally and physically. Because most of our congregants are older, they have limited energy and resources, and so many of the things which could be delegated by our pastor, she ends up doing herself, and so she faces burnout regularly. She has gotten better at taking personal time off, but I can still see that her spirit and energy are frequently flagging. And, even though we are relatively stable financially - due to renting our spaces to others - the added issues that come with renters occupy a lot of her time and energy. As her assistant, I do what I can to help ease these burdens, but I have limitations, as well, which prevent me from taking on more responsibilities. My fear is that my pastor will one day reach the end of her pastoral rope, and we may lose her. I will be sure to pass on this article to her, and continue to encourage her in her self care. Thank you for your frankness and insight.
— Monica Spangenberg
Even short mini retreats witb a group of colleagues is helpful... just sharing how it is withyour soul can move mountains of despair into the sea...
— Rick Pittenger

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.