We need to regularly ask the questions: “What are the long-term effects of this decision?” and, “What might be the unintended consequences of this decision?” For example, if you try to solve your shortage of church planters by recruiting, it has the long-term (and likely unintended) effect of diminishing your commitment to developing your own people. A group will short-circuit their long-term development of new leaders by trying to find ready-made leaders to plug into existing positions.

I once coached a pastor who was having trouble getting more small groups going in his congregation. Here’s a slice of that conversation:

  • Bob: “Who leads the groups?”
  • Pastor: “I lead one, and the four elders each lead one. We have five total.”
  • Bob: “What do you do in your groups?”
  • Pastor: “Study the scriptures.”
  • Bob: “How do you prepare for leading your group?”
  • Pastor: “I dig into the original languages and read commentaries.”
  • Bob: “And do the elders who lead the groups do the same preparation process?
  • Pastor: “Of course. We want to handle the text well.”

Making the decision that only elder-level, biblically trained people can lead groups had the long-term consequence of disempowering others from leading groups unless they had been to seminary or Bible college.

Consider the long-term effects of your decisions, and prioritize long-term goals over short-term gains.