We all make hundreds of decisions every day. Some decisions are insignificant and inconsequential; for example, I chose to make a double shot coffee this afternoon and I doubt this will have a significant impact on my life tomorrow (apart from perhaps a more restless night of sleep). However, some decisions are significant and consequential, setting a course for years or for the remainder of our lives. As parents or carers, I am certain you have wrestled with difficult decisions that have long lasting implications for you and your loved ones.
The reason I raise decisions and decision making in this newsletter article is that students in Year 8 and Year 10 will be making decisions about their elective subjects for next year in the coming weeks. The Year 9 (2022) subject selection process commences remotely on Friday 13 August (I will be in contact soon, if not already, with further details about how the process will run in remote learning) whilst the Year 11 (2022) subject selection process continues over the next two weeks as students and families engage in interviews with members of the Senior Executive. If you have not yet booked an interview, please contact email@example.com. Mr Roby and I will be providing specific guidance to students in a variety of ways to help them make the best choices with regards to their subjects for next year, but I thought it might be helpful to reflect in this article a little more about decision making in general, and particularly decision making as a Christian. If you are guiding your son or daughter through the subject selection process over the coming few weeks or other upcoming decisions, I encourage you to take the opportunity to equip them with some principles and strategies for making decisions in the hope that they may deploy what they learn at a latter stage of life when decisions are more significant and consequential.
King David offers some direction about making good decisions in Psalm 16:1-4:
‘6 The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the LORD weighs the spirit.
3 Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established.
4 The LORD has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.’
In the podcast Which Way? How to Take Big Decisions Wisely?, Trevor Skead (2021) explains with reference to Proverbs and Psalm 16 how making wise decisions is based on a clear understanding of who God is and who we are in relation to Him. Helpfully, he summarises three key principles for decision making based on Psalm 16: you need a healthy trust in the sovereignty of God; you need a healthy distrust of your own heart; and you need to actively commit your works to the Lord. There is plenty to reflect on in Trevor’s principles with regards to decision making, and more than I can unpack now in enough detail.
Moving from these three principles to more specific advice, Joe Carter’s (2020) article 12 Steps to Making Better Decisions in the 2020s provides a series of prompts you can work through when making decisions. I recommend you read this article and engage with Carter’s prompts. To summarise his work in a few key questions that you could discuss with your son or daughter, I recommend the following questions and prompts:
Be clear: What exactly is the decision about?
Seek guidance: What does God say about it? What do others I trust say about it? Have I earnestly prayed about it?
Be reflective: What do I want and why? What are my strengths and interests? Who do I want to be?
Clarify details: What information do I need to make the decision?
Weigh your options: What are my choices? What are the pros and cons of each option?
Make a choice: What is the best decision and why?
Take a step: What is my first step?
I recommend you work with your son or daughter through Joe Carter’s 12 prompts, or if you are not inclined to read further, you can use the prompts/questions above to help guide your son or daughter through their decisions. Hopefully, this will also provide a way of coaching students through the decision-making process and in the hope of preparing them well for future decisions.
As we endeavour to make the right decisions and help students to do likewise, I am comforted that we have a God who is completely good, wise and sovereign, and He places us where we ought to be for each moment. I am reminded that we need to approach our decisions with an awareness of our own heart and character, demonstrating humility in our decision-making process by not trusting ourselves completely, but seeking direction from God and counsel from trusted others. As we choose what we think is best, we weigh the benefits, costs, advantages, and disadvantages in accordance with the best information we have available at the time, and we step out boldly. Once we have endeavoured to make the right decision, we then commit to making the decision right by working tenaciously and faithfully in our chosen area. The book of Proverbs has much to say about the tendency (not certainty!) of hard work to produce good outcomes in God’s world (e.g. Proverbs 13:4).
As you coach your son or daughter to make good decisions for subjects next year and for bigger decisions in the future, encourage them to seek to make the right choice but also encourage them to strive to make the choice right.
Dean of Students (Years 7-9)
Carter, J. (2020). 12 Steps to Making Better Decision in the 2020s. Retrieved from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/12-steps-making-better-decisions-2020s/
Skead, T. (2021). Which Way? How To Take Big Decisions Wisely. Retrieved from https://africa.thegospelcoalition.org/podcasts/sermon-podcast/which-way-how-to-take-big-decisions-wisely/