Leading Up: Come with Solutions, Not Problems

Overwhelm with excellence by approaching your leaders with proposals, not with problems.

Josh Denhart
8 minute read

Ministry leaders are no strangers to problems. Resource needs, facility challenges, volunteer shortages — there’s something to tackle every week. If you serve in ministry, you encounter problems.

If you want to serve your ministry well AND lead up to your leaders, this is my best advice: don’t come to them with problems, come with solutions. Overwhelm with excellence by approaching your leaders with proposals, not with problems.

Busy leaders do not want to solve your issues. Do not come empty handed. Do not come as a person with all your needs and no plans for how to meet those needs.

Busy leaders want to approve well-constructed plans. Approach your leaders with solutions needing approval, not problems needing their brain power.

Practical Plan to Present Solutions

How does this look in practice? A lot of diligence and hard work on your part, long before you approach your leaders. Consider the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW of both the problem you are encountering and options to solve it. Think through your ministry area and the solution to this problem in the context of your whole organization. Have a budget for your solution. This is the most intense and time-consuming portion of the task.

Faithfully and diligently put your best work into solution-finding before you share with your leaders.

Then approach your leader with a straightforward summary of the problem you are seeking to overcome. After they understand the need, present your best and most thoroughly thought-out plan. Show your leaders the level of detail and brain power you have already committed to this issue. If you have research or data to illustrate the problem and best solution, share it.

Here is the secret.

Your leaders are busy. They do not have time to wade through a ton of details to arrive at a workable solution. If you come with problems WITHOUT solutions, you could run into two challenges:

  • The issue sits in a never-ending pile of “to do/to solve” issues this leader has to deal with, meaning a longer wait until you have a workable solution.

  • The leader develops a plan or solution that might not be the best fit or cover the details and perspective you have as the “boots on the ground” ministry leader.

Forward Progress — Fast

This is a process I used time and time again while serving in children’s ministry. Some of my peers, other director-level leaders at the church, were seeing my outcomes and successes. These other pastors were coming to me asking, “How do you get your stuff pushed through so fast? It seems like my stuff gets put onto a pile of other requests, never to be addressed. What are YOU doing that gets your ideas approved so fast?” I was getting my way and I was not the boss.

When ministry leaders see a well-orchestrated plan, they are often quite willing to approve it and move on.

It is a blessing to your leaders when you come with solutions and not problems. It is also a blessing to your own ministry area, as you will see progress and forward movement instead of struggling through with obstacles weighing you down week after week.

This method not only is likely to produce the best outcome for your ministry, it will keep your ministry moving forward.

A Bonus Win

When you diligently work to come to your leaders with a solution, you have already laid out the path to solve your own problem. Once you receive the green light, you know exactly how to proceed. You’ve already done the work! You can begin execution, resolve the issue quickly, and move forward on a smoother ministry path.

It won’t be long until you encounter your next ministry problem. But don’t wait for someone else to fix it for you. The work required to effectively lead up starts now.

Check out these videos:

Come with Solutions: The Principle

Come with Solutions: The Gut Check

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