Trying to learn how to make decisions, as an individual or as a couple, can feel a bit like trying to learn how to breathe. It seems like something that has to be natural in order to be effective. If we had to think about breathing, then we’d fear getting distracted and suffocating. When we think about being intentional in our decision making it can quickly feel like such an effort would take over our lives.

There is good deal of merit to this concern. If we tried to bring overt thought and prescribe processes to every individual or marital decision in order to ensure that we arrived at the will of God, then our lives would be paralyzed. We would live in fear or fail to complete a large number of tasks that life requires.

But we’ve all been burned by the alternative. After a bad decision we put on our “20/20 Hindsight Glasses” and see how greater intentionality could have alleviated the unpleasant outcome. We begin to think it would be “worth it” to run our decisions through some kind of process. But it’s hard to determine what level of decision warrants this process (where’s “the line”?) and what kind of process to use for each decision.

These challenges emerge before we introduce the difficulty of two-party decision making required in marriage. It is hard enough to answer these questions as an individual, but they are multiplied when married couples must both agree (mental consent) and cooperate (logistical follow through) on decisions.

These are the challenges we are tackling in this seminar. In order to address these challenges, we will divide decision making into three arenas. Too often, couples try to force all decision making to fit into one or two of these arenas. They may do this for convenience (but simple becomes simplistic) or conviction (emphasizing some part of what Scripture teaches to the neglect of other parts). Either way, their life lacks balance and begins to show the corresponding wear-and-tear.

1. Personal Decision Making (Disciple; Eph. 5:15-17): The foundation of a healthy couple is two individuals committed to wise personal decision making. We must be a faithful disciple of Christ before we will be a good husband/wife to our spouse. It is neither possible nor advisable for a couple to consult each other on every decision they make. Shared values, agreed upon life structures (i.e., calendar and budget), and appreciation for what is important to each other comprise the foundation of personal decision making that will bless a marriage. We will discuss how to approach personal decision making in chapters two and three.

2. Consensus Decision Making (Friends; Eph. 5:21): Another large portion of marital decisions will be made as friends through the process of consensus. This is how two individuals begin to shape “our life” together that represents the new “we” more than the individual “me’s.” As a couple grows in their knowledge and sacrifice for another, this arena of decision making should become the significant majority of their shared decision making. Consensus should be the default approach to decision making throughout marriage. How to approach consensus decision making will be discussed in chapter four.

3. Corporate Decision Making (Headship-Submission; Eph. 5:22-31): Not all decisions can be made through consensus. Couples will not agree on every decision. Some decisions do not allow for a “middle ground” because of limited options. How and when to engage the headship-submission style of decision making will be discussed in chapter five. But a brief preface will be made here. The fact that God gives husbands the role of headship in these kinds of decisions does not mean the husband must/should choose his preference in each instance. While the final call does belong to the husband, it is an unwise husband who always calls his own number.

This in an overview to a to the “Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Decision Making” seminar which is available in its entirety for free on-line.