How to Handle the Unsolvable Problems that Inevitably Arise in Your Church


No leader can solve every problem. 

Some problems have staying power. And good leaders admit it when a solution to a problem will not come to fruition. Allow me to offer you two perspectives—one from the solution side and the other from the problem side.

1. Leaders can select the right problem to solve but craft a poor solution.

2. Leaders can attempt to solve the wrong problem. 

As a pastor, I have been guilty of both—poor solutions to the right problems and good solutions to the wrong problems. I have fought needless battles. I have chased rabbits. The Bible gives plain instructions on how to deal with sin. But some problems in the church are not due to sin. These problems can be caused by poor planning, bad technology, old facilities, and odd traditions, among many others.

What should you do when you encounter the inevitable problem that appears unsolvable? What if you cannot ignore the issue? What if it must be addressed? These cases are not easy for leaders. But consider a few guidelines first.

Concede. Have self-awareness that your solution is not working. Acknowledge that you need a new plan. Your “best” solution may never work. Sometimes leaders have to concede and settle for plan B. Sometimes followers will never grasp the best solution. Remember, leaders serve the people, not their own ideals.

Consensus. The majority does not always have the right solution, nor do they always pick the right problems to solve. With consensus, no one gets all of what they want but most can live with the outcome.

Leaders can use consensus, however, by building it. Don’t start with a large bundle of ideas and allow the people to whittle down the options. Start with one or two new solutions and let the people build them up by making them their own.

Conversations. Leaders must have conversations proactively or gossip will take over reactively. Have friendly conversations with key people and assume they will “talk.” Then listen. Track the pulse of the body. Check the excitement (or dissatisfaction) level and continue crafting your solution.

Creativity. Conceding your ideal solution is not the same as admitting defeat. But it does require more creativity in building another solution. If the problem is unsolvable, then extra creativity is needed to find a resolution.

Some problems are perpetual. They never quite go away. For instance, a landlocked and growing church in a downtown area may not have the luxury of buying more land or building taller. Be creative in addressing the problem. Leaders can earn much respect by figuring out the next best solution.

Posted on November 3, 2021

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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1 Comment

  • Leading is just that. To lead, at least in my perspective, is to employ all the available assets as best I can. In a Church I have found that the best plan for the Church often comes from someone not me. I may have the appropriate solution for the issue, but sometimes the greatest growth comes from a solution achieved by trial and error. I have found that churches that depend solely on the wisdom or charisma of the leader for decision making tend to have difficulties when that leader moves on. The slippery slope of deferring to the leader simply because they are the leader is the creation of a cult or personality.

    A sage advisor, in my former career in the military, reminded me that I may have a better solution, but if the solution proposed by my subordinate is sufficient to achieve the desired results, why should I make the subordinate do it my way. Leading, most importantly, entails knowing what are the things that the leader MUST do or must control.

    The “best” solution may work but at what cost. Will a “worse” solution be better for the community as a whole? That is the real question.