Are you good at delegating? Most of us aren’t. We didn’t go into church work, or become a church volunteer, because we love to delegate. We serve in order to get things done. To some, delegating tasks may even feel like cheating!
But we in the church, of all people, should make delegating a priority.
- When we delegate, we’re getting more people involved. When staff and leaders don’t delegate, the body of Christ limps along by using only a few of the parts of its body (I Corinthians 12).
- Moses got chewed out by his father-in-law for not delegating (Exodus 18)!
- When we delegate well, work is more likely done by those best suited to do it (Exodus 31:1-6).
Let’s be clear. Delegating is not ‘dumping’—giving someone a task or a responsibility with a brief, “Here; now it’s yours” and then walking away. Delegating also is not ‘directing’—giving someone a task then standing nearby with, “Now do this; now this. No, not that way!” Neither approach is appreciated or effective. Delegating involves a thoughtful balance between letting go and remaining in charge.
Delegating requires time and effort; it also involves risk. But it’s not rocket science. It’s a skill anyone can learn and it improves with practice. To illustrate, I’ll outline the steps of delegation using an example from my work at church—planning a ministry fair:
- Plan ahead. We needed about three months to prepare for the event, so I began recruiting four weeks before that.
- Select a task or tasks. I decided that if other workers were in charge of room set-up and communications with the ministry leaders, I’d have time to keep other projects moving ahead.
- Get the right person for the task. I invited Shirley, a recently retired administrative assistant with great organizational skills, to be the connection with the ministry leaders. I invited Debbie, an event planner who was very creative, to lead the set-up.
- Agree on the desired results. What will success look like? Be willing to let the volunteers achieve the results in their own ways. I told Shirley I needed to know which ministries were participating two weeks in advance. We also discussed what those ministry leaders would need to be told about the event. I told Debbie I wanted tables for ministry displays in a festive atmosphere that would encourage people to linger and engage in conversation.
- Agree on the amount of control you retain. Do you want them to run each step by you before they initiate it? To check in only if they have a problem? Or something in between? This agreement is key to success or failure. The more experience you have working with someone, the less control you need. In my case, we all agreed we’d email each other every Wednesday with a status report.
- Follow through on the plan. One Thursday morning I emailed Debbie because I didn’t hear from her the previous day. She quickly responded.
- Make sure they have what they need to succeed: information, tools, access to equipment, answers to their questions, affirmation and feedback, etc.
- At the end, review together. What went well? How could we have improved our collaboration? This is how you’ll improve your delegation skills.
It takes courage to delegate. Sometimes people will let you down; you can count on it. If you do something yourself, you’re congratulated; but if you delegate, it may appear that you “haven’t done anything.” The person you delegate to might do the job better than you could. All of this can be difficult for us!
But we can take our insecurities, fears, and challenges to the One who gave us our skills, the One whose love is never conditional on our accomplishments. He’s the one who has filled our churches with gifted people. We are all meant to work together in the body of Christ; God never intended us to be Lone Rangers.
Editor’s note: Watch our blog in the coming weeks for more information on retaining volunteers. If you’ve missed any of the volunteer retention series, you can find a list of the articles here.
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