“Don’t do anything yourself.”
That’s the advice I once received from someone I trusted, a member of my advisory board. She claimed it was the key to effective ministry in churches. My friend wasn’t encouraging laziness. She was stressing delegation.
That conversation was one of the few times I remember discussing delegation with anyone over my many decades of church work. We rarely encourage delegation in the church. We seldom even talk about it!
Why? Perhaps because we often confuse delegating with two other, mostly ineffective ways of sharing the workload: dumping and directing.
Dumping involves assigning a task or a responsibility to someone with a brief, “Here. Now it’s yours.” Then walking away. The dump-er feels relieved. The dump-ee, though, rarely appreciates it. Rarely does it bring good results.
Directing involves assigning a task or responsibility to someone, and then standing over their shoulder, communicating the attitude: “Now do this; now this. No, not that way!” A director never walks away, and few direct-ees appreciate it. Soon, they begin to lose interest, and the results speak for themselves.
Delegating, in contrast, involves gradually letting go while you support and coach.
Why Should We Delegate?
Of all people on earth, we in the church have great reasons to be the very best at delegating:
- When staff and a handful of key leaders are ‘doers’ rather than delegators, most of God’s people are locked out of the privilege of using their gifts in the church. The body of Christ limps along, using only a few of the parts of its body. See 1 Corinthians 12.
- When delegating is done well, tasks are likely done by the people most interested in the results and best able to create successful outcomes. See Exodus 31:1-6.
- Your church is filled with highly-skilled potential volunteers — marketing experts, strategic planners, technology gurus, and the like.
- Delegating builds relationships. When we work together as God’s people, we understand more clearly that he never intended us to serve as Lone Rangers.
- Delegating builds up both individual people and the kingdom of Christ. When we delegate to someone, we help them develop their skills and their confidence. This has positive and lasting repercussions.
Why Don’t We Delegate?
Most times, our failure to delegate isn’t malicious or selfish. So why don’t we delegate? Here are a few possible roadblocks:
- We don’t know how because we’ve never been taught and we have seldom seen delegation effectively modelled.
- Delegating is hard work. It takes time – often a lot of time. It truly is easier to do it yourself, at least in the short term. Over the long haul, though, it’s another story.
- Delegating involves risk. Sometimes people will let you down. You can count on it.
- Delegating is rarely rewarded. If you do something yourself, you’re congratulated. If you delegate well to a half dozen people, and thereby accomplish 10 times more than you could possibly accomplish on your own, it may appear to others that you ‘haven’t done anything.’
- When your supervisor sees you delegating, they may decide you have too much free time and begin assigning extra tasks to you.
One final barrier can stand in the way of delegation. We may fear that our delegates will do the jobs we relinquish better than we have done them (or could do them!) In other words, our own insecurities can make it hard to delegate.
If and when that happens, remember! We can take our fears and self-doubt to the One who gifted us for service in the first place. He gave us our skills, our talents, and our spiritual gifts. He invites us to serve him by serving his people. But his love is always unconditional. It is never based on what we accomplish or fail to accomplish..
Next week we will look at some important specifics focused on the how’s of delegation. In the meantime, CTA can help you say a sincere thank-you to your faithful volunteers. Check out the possibilities!