This year has brought several challenges. Many of these have forced church leaders to get creative and develop new ways of doing things. While we all hope life will settle down soon, it’s best to hone our problem-solving skills so we can handle whatever comes next.

Thankfully, even if you’re the senior pastor, you don’t have to figure this all out on your own. You have a team, whether paid or all-volunteer, who can help you handle the next challenge. However, developing problem-solving skills takes intentional practice and action.

Here are a few ways to help your team grow in this crucial skill:

No. 1: Ask “why?”

When COVID-19 hit, and we went to all online services, that raised several questions regarding how to minister to a remote congregation. There are many aspects of a traditional, in-person service that are hard to replicate online. Furthermore, it might not make sense to try to replicate it all online. So, we start asking, “why?”

  • Why do we do this part of the service?
  • Why haven’t we engaged our volunteers in this process?
  • Why can’t we try <insert new method here>?

Another tool to use is the “Five Whys” approach. It’s a simple way to get someone to think critically about a statement or opinion they’ve expressed. When they mention a reason why something can’t work, keep asking why. This might annoy them at first, but it should also get them to consider more options instead of just, “that won’t work.”

No. 2: Request opposing opinions

When you’re the senior leader in the room, most team members will want to agree with you. They might be intimidated or they’re looking for your approval. This means that when you say you’re thinking about trying a new approach to an issue, they might all nod in agreement (even if they’re not completely convinced).

To ward off their tendency to simply agree, don’t announce your idea as “let’s do this.” Instead, start with a comment such as, “I wonder if inviting small groups to meet outside at the church campus would help them get back into a regular meeting routine?”

If staff members all agree initially, mention a possible drawback to that idea to get their reaction. “Of course, dealing with weather issues and ensuring we have enough chairs for them could be a challenge.” You could also try asking them to give you the pros and cons of that approach.

Make sure you tell the team that it is OK to disagree in this forum. Ask for their input and listen more than you speak. Let them know that after you’ve weighed their input and decided on the next step, then you need their support once they leave the room. In the meantime, you’re counting on them to be completely honest with you, even if they think you won’t like what they have to say.

No. 3: Read and discuss

Carve out a few minutes each staff meeting to read a short article and discuss the author’s points. Consider assigning a book to read during the month and talk about the content each week. Ask pointed questions and have others prepare discussion questions beforehand to spark conversation.

The idea here is to expose the team to new ideas and viewpoints. We all need to challenge our thinking on occasion to make sure we aren’t just “doing what we’ve always done.” Learning how other leaders handle difficult situations or what other churches are doing can lead to new ideas and great solutions.

No. 4: Don’t accept problems

If staff members don’t have a problem-solving mindset, they might bring issues to your attention without any potential solutions. Talk with your team about being problem-solvers.

Tell them you’re happy to discuss issues, but they shouldn’t bring a problem to you without also offering 2-3 options to fix it. The next time someone brings a problem without mentioning a solution, ask how he/she recommends fixing the issue. That will help bring the point home that you’re serious about them developing options to fix problems.

Every church leader needs a team of people who can think critically and come up with creative solutions. While completing tasks is valuable, high-performing teams excel at overcoming obstacles and finding solutions to new challenges.

Encourage your team to bring their ideas, feedback, and solutions to the table. They’ll appreciate a leader who values their input, and you’ll gain access to more ideas than you could ever come up with on your own. That’s an excellent combination for any team.