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Making better decisions and developing better people 


What can churches learn from the workspace about decisions, development, and supporting good people? The second blog of a series by Terry Young exploring bringing the workplace into our faith  



It is not until the exile that we discover what it meant for a believer to hold down a secular job in a world of radically different values. Kings, for instance, need to make good decisions, so Nebuchadnezzar appoints Daniel as Head of Forecasting. Is this good news, since a believer gains unprecedented access to the King?  What about the appalling methods the workforce uses, techniques Harry Potter might recognise as the Dark Arts?

Of course, Daniel doesn’t face geopolitics and the occult immediately, but starts with teenage challenges about his diet. He passes his first forecasting challenge and interprets the King’s dream (using a whole new toolkit) to become a master negotiator, pragmatist and a very mystical prophet.

Nehemiah is another exile who does an astonishing job for his people because he also did a good job for a secular King. When was the last time someone at a church business meeting could offer a short prayer and then tell everyone how long the project would last and what it would cost?

By Jesus’ time, the nation had retrenched and decided that secular service meant siding with an administration that was ruining the nation. It took history’s seismic event to catapult believers once more out of Jerusalem and into secular roles in society at large.

Has what Daniel and Nehemiah achieved been lost?  Daniel learns how an imperial mind thinks. His prophecy contains wild concepts – even we can sense breath-taking scales of time and distance – to describe God’s plans for the good news that is about to go global. He can also structure problems quickly and accurately. Even on the back foot, woken by an execution squad, he manages to persuade someone important that this is all a bit harsh and if he can just get a message to the King, everything will be alright on the night.

Nehemiah’s project management would hardly earn him a PRINCE 2 qualification, with all those prayers scribbled in the margins of his notebook, but his structured thinking solves a very open-ended problem and he builds a wall with a demoralised workforce surrounded by enemies.

How can we, like Daniel and Nehemiah, take the best of what is out there, filter it through godly living and prayer, and restore something to our churches that has gone missing?


Decisions are tricky, so let’s take a common example: your church has become too small or has reached a state of dilapidation where money will have to be spent. What do you do next?

One secular approach is to create wildly different scenarios and compare them. One scenario might involve rescheduling meetings into more, but smaller, events in the same building. Don’t leave it there: work out from the start whether equivalent events will be identical or if each will shape itself around its new congregation.

Another scenario might be to refurbish the building to obtain a better match between the needs of the church and the space you own. A third might be to relinquish the building entirely and use rented spaces: a school, serviced offices, perhaps even a hotel at times. A fourth option might be to sell up and buy or build elsewhere. Other scenarios exist (e.g. demolish and rebuild) but the four outlined can help you structure your thinking, so flesh them out carefully with as much detail as you realistically can, including budgets and representative numbers.

Since the scenarios are not directly comparable, you need to set your assessment criteria carefully – accessibility and usability for the average church-goer, parking, wear and tear on permanent staff and those who run things, flexibility, growth potential, capital costs, running costs, scheduling, etc.

The spiritual work of praying together about the future and praying for the resources to fill in the gaps that each scenario creates, carries on throughout.
When you reach a decision – which may be to combine several scenarios – everyone can back it. If you decided to take a risk, everyone was on board. If you couldn’t reach consensus, it’s probably not worth troubling the Kingdom with another dysfunctional congregation and you certainly don’t want to grow into an even bigger problem.

Assessment frameworks

One of my big gains from working life was learning how to grade: exams, projects, even people. In industry we had annual appraisals, the best of which were underpinned by an elegant framework: it reflected how the company worked and what it needed from staff. One model I liked had seven characteristics from technical competence through to skills in management, including a category on how well you coped with uncertainty! Selfishly, it helped me to identify my developmental needs. When I moved to university, I discovered new dimensions to frameworks in assessing students, refereeing research papers and proposals, and even in deciding what drugs to fund on the NHS.

There are several examples of the early church laying down specifications for people it was after. We don’t have access to all their thinking, but they could identify a standard leadership requirement that would be met in any local church and also managed to select some of the most remarkable people in history for special missions. We know about the paperwork but we rarely push the concepts to the limit as they did nor do we enjoy their earlier success.

Scenarios and frameworks are just two methods that have been developed by the secular world, which could influence our decisions for the better. Those at church who really understand how to build scenarios or frameworks are probably in secular positions, so if they walk close to Jesus, why not unleash their skills on the problem? Neither method will make a decision, but both can help people work out what really matters to them and support groups in prayer for guidance.

Do you think Jesus had any of this in mind when he encouraged his followers in Matthew 10:16 (NIV) to be ‘as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’?


This is the second blog in a five-part series:
  1. How can I bring the workplace into my faith? - While Jesus clearly rejected worldly values, the parables in Luke showed he thought some worldly methods worth a second glance. I am now increasingly convinced that we need to revisit and rethink the workplace, perhaps radically so
  2. Making better decisions and developing people - What can churches learn from the workspace about decisions, development, and supporting good people? 
  3. Evangelism - Churches have accidentally silenced the very people who are most in touch with the dis-evangelised coal face. What is the latest thinking? Where is technology taking us? What philosophies are already changing our lives? Somewhere among the Church’s secular workforce someone will sense an answer. But that is not how we plan evangelism. How could we do better?
  4. The poor - Nobody else was as interested in the poor as Jesus, yet the Church has an underused mandate for entrepreneurial wealth creation to the benefit of others. What role the Christian entrepreneur? 
  5. Redeeming the workplace - Having denied working Christians a voice in church, it is hardly surprising that the Church has lost its voice at work. What was supposed to be a creative space where effort generates wealth that spills over and blesses society, is more often a meaningless grind. So how can the workplace be redeemed?



Terry Young was born to missionary parents working in the Middle East. He has always tried to unify his life of worship and secular missions, and has been part of church leadership teams in Essex, and at Slough Baptist Church. He has written a few books that link worlds, including After the Fishermen, and Jake, Just Learn to Worship.

After a mobile early childhood his family settled in the UK to the northwest of Birmingham, and eventually he studied at the local university. After his doctoral studies he worked for 16 years in Chelmsford undertaking research and business development in the aerospace sector, where his interest was in fibre optics and photonics. In the end he gravitated to healthcare systems and move to Datchet with a position as a university professor

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