What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

A little over three years ago I made a career transition from being a pastor to being a regional church planting director. I moved from direct ministry to members of a church and community to assessing, training, coaching and resourcing pastors who were starting new congregations. Big change. I didn’t know how big a change it was. I was in the realm of unconscious incompetence.

In psychology, there is a name for what I was going through. It’s called the “Four Stages of Competence.” I entered at the first stage: unconscious incompetence. Basically, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. This is often the bliss of ignorance. For a seasoned pastor, I could assume that I had the tools and knowledge to do the job and get going. But that was not the case. In fact, the more self-assured a person is, the harder it will be for them in this first stage. It is hard because they think they know what they need, but in reality, they don’t know what they need and they don’t even know that they need something.

This utter ignorance must be overcome by having a teachable and coachable spirit. I could only get past this first stage with some humility and someone else's help. That someone else needs to be competent in the area I’m not. If you have a “life-question” then ask someone who has lived a great life and done well. If it is a career question, then find a successful person in the career in question and ask them. You get it.

The first question that you ask yourself is, “Who do I know or who do I know who may know someone who has done well at (fill in the blank)? You name them and find them.

Before you meet with that person, you need to answer this question: What am I most afraid of? The question goes to your fear. Fear has a way of hiding behind a lot of other stuff in our lives. It can sabotage just about anything unless it is confronted. To be receptive and honest with them, you need to honestly answer that question and bring that answer with you to the meeting and let it help to shape your time in learning from them.

The next question is for them. It is a very open ended question and it may need a few follow-up questions, but to get it started, ask, “What is it that you have found out that most people don’t know about (fill in the blank), that they need to know?” This will get you moving past unconscious incompetence.