It’s one thing to claim to integrate faith and ethics into leadership – many faith-based organizations do — but actually allowing those values to inform day-to-day decisions is a much more formidable and less common achievement. At the macro level, many faith-based organizations operate ethically, but it is no surprise that locally there remains a gap between the values they espouse and the way in which everyday decisions are made. After all, allowing core values to penetrate and guide decision-making is no small feat; it requires commitment, unwavering intentionality, and strong self-awareness on the part of leadership, whether responding to an e-mail or heading up a meeting. Recognizing this challenge, there are a few questions one can consider when striving to integrate faith and ethics into decision-making:
1. How will this decision influence impact?
In values-driven organizations, the ultimate goal is always impact. Therefore, if the relationship between the decision at hand and its positive impact is unclear, it is worth questioning the inherent value of the proposed course of action. While a decision may benefit an organization, it may not actually move the needle in the direction of greater impact. In such cases, it is critical to assess anticipated value and determine whether a particular path will be truly effective. Of course, there are times when a decision that does not contribute to external impact can have positive internal effects – increased employee satisfaction and overall productivity, a positive work culture, etc. – but the effect on impact should always be considered.
2. Is there a Biblical precedent for this decision?
In Christian ethics, it is paramount to consider what God’s Word says about potential decisions. While Scripture may not address every choice directly (What new service offerings should we incorporate next year? Should I change the meeting time?), it can offer an invaluable framework for ethical decision-making. Looking to the Bible also reminds us of Christ’s character, and we can lean on the ever-applicable truism, “What would Jesus do?” as we contemplate options. While admittedly cliché, the adage reminds us that as followers of Christ, it is appropriate to look to Him as a supreme example of faith proclaimed in the everyday. Doing so can bring clarity and self-awareness as we recognize where our expertise ends and God’s provision – often revealed in the talents of others — prevails.
3. Is this decision financially responsible?
This question may seem obvious, but truly considering financial ramifications goes beyond simply looking at the bottom line. We must think about “the big picture” and remember our calling to be sound stewards of God’s gifts. Making wise financial decisions falls squarely within this command and will only serve our organization well in both the short and long term.
4. Does this decision incorporate and consider other perspectives?
Scripture makes it clear that God shows no partiality, and neither should we. This principle is borne out in the secular world as well, as it is widely acknowledged that collaboration and inclusion are more productive than competition and greed. For Christians, leading in humility reflects the character of God and helps us respect and love those around us, ultimately resulting in better, more informed decisions.
Decision-making, even in the small things, always involves risk, and while there is no guarantee that even the most considered and faithful decisions will produce positive outcomes, it is critical to invest the time, effort, and energy that ethical decisions require. Daunting as it may seem, our missions demand it. And when we feel overwhelmed in this charge, we can take comfort in the open invitation that Christ extends to look to Him as the author and perfecter of our faith.
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