I woke up early this morning, had my quiet time, and began working on my own ministry. I was quickly reminded why leaders must become proficient at the skill of delegating. I have more vision than I have capacity, and so do you. I think life and ministry are like this by God’s design.
God is building his church and he is placing each person in the body just where they belong for the building up of the church. We are only a part of his church. It is our responsibility to equip other members for the work of ministry.
When you delegate effectively, you empower others to do what God created them to do and you create space for doing what only you can do. When you delegate effectively, everybody wins! Delegation is essential to raising up new leaders.
You may have to give your life for Christ—be killed—but you should not die or end your calling prematurely because you burned out.
“When you delegate effectively, everybody wins!”
Ministry should not require you to sacrifice your health, your family, or your faith. There is a better way to lead. We must become proficient at the art and skill of delegation. Delegating is a core skill every leader must master.
Delegation, however, isn’t something most leaders do naturally. We are good at doing. We naturally delegate like hit-and-run drivers. We don’t stop long enough to give our new recruits what they need to survive and thrive.
When you have finished reading this post, you will:
- Have a thorough understanding of what delegation is and is not.
- Know the process of effective delegation.
Delegation is not abdication. Ken Blanchard says, “Abdicating is when you give somebody responsibility and then you disappear.” Blanchard calls this kind of person the “Seagull Manager.” When things fall apart, and they will, “You fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everybody, and fly out.”
Michael Gerber wrote in E-Myth,
There’s a critical moment in every business when the owner hires his very first employee to do the work he doesn’t know how to do himself, or doesn’t want to do. … And in a single stroke, you suddenly understand what it means to be in business in a way you never understood before. “I don’t have to do that anymore!” At last you’re free. The Manager in you wakes up and The Technician temporarily goes to sleep. Your worries are over. Someone else is going to do that now. But at the same time — unaccustomed as you are to being The Manager — your newfound freedom takes on an all too common form. It’s called Management by Abdication rather than by Delegation. In short, like every small business owner has done before you, you hand the books over to Harry… and run.1
We pastors are no different. Abdication leads to disastrous results. The work doesn’t get done or doesn’t get done well, the person assigned the task is MIA, and the work falls back in your lap. Sound familiar?
Delegation is giving another person the authority and responsibility to act on your behalf. Delegation is giving another person power to do a ministry or task under your authority and responsibility. Delegation is the art of passing on the purpose, the processes, and the desired product for which you are ultimately responsible.
1. DISCOVER THE “WHAT?”
“Delegation is giving another person the authority and responsibility to act on your behalf.”
The first step toward delegation is knowing what you and you alone must do. Start by reading How to Avoid Burnout as a Pastor.
Review your list of Things I Must Not Do, and Ask yourself, which of these things, if done well, will be most strategic in advancing the mission of the church?
This is also the work that if left undone or done poorly is most likely to get back on your plate. This is your first task/ministry to delegate.
2. DEFINE THE “WHY?”
Why is this work important to the mission of the church?
God hardwired each person to be purpose driven. Purpose sparks passion. Simon Sinek said in his best-selling book, Start with Why, “The power of WHY is not opinion, it’s biology.”2 Sinek makes a compelling case: “When we communicate WHAT we do first, yes, people can understand vast amounts of complicated information, like facts and features, but it does not drive behavior.” But when we start with why, “we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls decision-making.” WHY, not WHAT, drives behavior!
Do you remember the pitch Steve Jobs made to Pepsi executive John Sculley to lure him to Apple? Jobs asked, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”
When you invite someone to join you on a mission and tell them first WHAT you want, you have informed their mind. But when you show them WHY, you win their hearts and minds.
When God called Paul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, he also “showed him how much he must suffer.”3 But suffering wasn’t a problem for Paul, because Paul understood the “why” that undergirded his calling.
“So, we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”4
Why would Sue, who is married, works a full-time job, and has two kids in soccer give two hours a week leading the Visual Arts Team? When you ask Sue to serve, you are asking for part of her life, and you had better have a compelling reason for asking. If you only assume Sue owns the vision and wants to serve because she is a Christ-follower and because you need her help, you are making a massive mistake.
You are not looking for a warm body to fill a role. You are looking for someone who wants what you want as much as you want it. This is the person who will find a way to get the job done when she is tired and does not feel like doing it.
Take time to craft your “why.” Here’s an example of what I communicated to a couple, Larry and Yvette, when I recruited them to oversee our Greeters Team.
Larry and Yvette, I have been praying about a need within our church and your names have come up more than once. We are looking for a couple to lead our Greeters Team. I am talking to you because I believe you care deeply about people and you own the mission of our church—you want to see people grow in their love for God, grow in their love for other people, and live on mission for Jesus Christ.
We know from research that first-time visitors decide if they’ll return in the first ten minutes of arriving on our campus. Ten minutes! That’s all we get. Our greeters literally give guests their best chance to find and follow Jesus Christ. That’s why you have heard us at Impact Church say, “The sermon begins in the parking lot.” We know that long before people have sung the first song or heard the preacher’s first words, they have already made up their mind whether they will return. And that’s why we guarantee our guests, “When you arrive on our campus, the first person you meet will be wearing a smile.”
The Scriptures tell us, “Faith comes from hearing, that is hearing the Good News about Christ.”5 That means repeated exposure to the truth is key to helping people trust Christ. We believe that if we give people a great first impression, they are likely to return, and if we give them a repeat experience on subsequent visits, we will have a good chance of seeing them become regular attendees and ultimately trust Christ and become fully mature followers of Christ.
You see why our greeters are so important!?
Don’t make your presentation a polished performance. This is not a memorized pitch. Know “why” and share naturally and enthusiastically with the person you want to recruit.
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3. DISCOVER THE “WHO?”
Look for someone with the capacity and competency. A rule of thumb: if you find someone who can do the work 70% as good as you, you’ve got someone you can delegate to. This person may not be fully prepared to take on the work, but this kind of ministry is in their wheelhouse. He or she is likely already in your congregation. They just need the opportunity and the equipping.
Speaking metaphorically of the church, the apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 2:21, “In him the whole building is joined together…” The term joined together comes from the Greek word, to fit. Like a bricklayer takes a brick that has the right shape and places it within the wall of a building, God is fitting each person into the church to build it up into a holy temple in the Lord.
Start by looking for this person within your congregation. If you do not have the person inside, consider outsourcing. Look for an individual, maybe a retired person, with the skills you need and offer a stipend for their services. Consider using a temp service.
If this ministry is vital to the work of the church, then trust that God has provided or will provide a volunteer, or the resources to hire this person.
4. DESCRIBE THE PROCESS
Tell them what you want, what you expect, and what is required.
Don’t be shy! Don’t make it look easier than it is. God told Paul how much he must suffer. What?? Yes, be that honest. If your why is compelling, they won’t be scared off. It is better to have your recruit quit before they start than let you down later. Your recruit must know what they are signing on to do.
I told Larry and Yvette there are four main responsibilities for leading the Greeters Team.
- Recruit team members. We need a roster of 40 people serving once a month.
- Train your recruits. On-the-job training is sufficient. I’d establish a team of trained individuals and then bring in a new team of recruits weekly to work with them.
- Meet 30 minutes before the service.
- Cast vision and share wins.
- Pray together.
- Give each recruit a handout clarifying expectations.
- Explain to new team members the difference between “welcoming” and “overwhelming” a guest.
- Pair new team members with trained team members the first week.
- Schedule one team per service. Email each team by Tuesday each week to remind them it is their turn to serve.
- Care for your team.
- Send bi-monthly emails to your team expressing appreciation. Share success stories: “I saw a couple this week that came for the first time last week. Well done! That’s on you guys.” Or, “Did you all see the Valdez family get baptized Sunday? It was just a few weeks ago they came for the first time. Well done! With our warm welcome, we are giving people their best chance to find and follow Christ.”
- Care also means correct. If we care about the ministry and the people we serve, we must correct team members who do not follow our process. Remember this: “What gets rewarded gets repeated,” and “What does not get corrected gets repeated,” too.
Talk your prospective recruits through the process. Pause! Ask questions. “Does this make sense?” Let them know they won’t be on their own until they are ready to be on their own.
TIP: Keep the process simple.
Traditional delegation calls for an extensive and detailed job description. I tend to follow Mike Michalowicz’s procedure, which he describes in chapter 4 of his book, Clockwork. Mike suggests you pull out your smartphone and capture your talk with your recruit while you are sharing the process. Give the video to your new lead to review as often as she wants. Save the video in your ministry systems files for future use.
5. DESCRIBE THE PRODUCT
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. But just because you don’t have a picture doesn’t mean you should use 1,000 words. What does a great greeting team look like? I described the product in 142 words. Tell your recruit exactly what the ministry will look like when it is fully functioning as you see it. Below is what I shared with my greeting team recruits:
A good greeting team is a team that shows up on time. Every position is filled every week, and every person understands and carries out their responsibility. They do not stand in groups talking to friends or other team members, but are laser focused on guests. They don’t overwhelm, but warmly welcome everyone. They pay attention to those they have never seen before, being careful to direct them appropriately. Greeters know where to find the basics guests are looking for: where do you check in kids, where are the coffee and donuts, and if they find the coffee, they will need the restrooms. Beyond that, they know where to find other important information. If a greeter interacts with a person or family, they should take care to remember their names (enter it on your smartphone or carry a 3x5 card and pen).
Your new leader now has a great picture of what they were recruited to produce.
Tip: Capture this part of the recruitment talk on your smartphone.
6. ONBOARD THE RECRUIT
Don’t drop the ball now. They are excited. They believe in your vision.
You have taken the time to connect a person to the purpose, and you have described the process and product. The momentum is in your favor.
Help your team leader get their first win. Meet them on the job, day one. Introduce them to the team. Let them observe you leading the meeting. Next week meet them on the job again. Let them lead the meeting. Ask if they are comfortable. If they are, let them lead without you the following week. Call after the service and see how it went.
NOTE: Stay involved. Even if you have done everything well up to this point, this is where it is easiest to fail your recruit. You might print these next two paragraphs and post them on your office wall or bathroom mirror.
Reward your recruit for a job well done. A handwritten thank-you note is a great reward. Tell them what you saw that was done well. What gets rewarded gets repeated. Correct what was not done well. What does not get corrected also gets repeated.
Once they are fully assimilated into their new role, your job isn’t finished. You are not abdicating. You are delegating. Stay in the loop of their ministry and life. Check in with them regularly. Give them tools, a book, share blogs, podcasts, and other relevant materials. Invest in their continued learning.
Continue to love and care for your leader and you’re likely to have a leader for life.
QUESTIONS PEOPLE ASK:
IS DELEGATION WORTH ALL THAT TIME AND EFFORT, REALLY?
Answer: Maybe it would be better to ask, “Is it worth the time it takes so I can continue doing what only I can do? Is it worth the time so I can give my undivided attention to those who matter most? Is it worth the time to help someone else be fulfilled using their skills and passions to build up the church? Is it worth the time to ensure that the church remains healthy and experiences solid growth? Is it worth the time to ensure the church does not plateau and I do not burn out? Is it worth the time to keep a margin in my life so I don’t end up one of the nine in ten pastors who do not retire as a pastor? Is it worth the time to multiply yourself?”
“No one will make a great business (or church) who wants to do it all himself…” Andrew Carnagie
Yes. It really is worth it!
WHAT STEPS ARE MOST IMPORTANT, WHICH ARE KEY?
Answer: All of them. Seriously, this is like asking, “What is more important to life, oxygen or blood?” Don’t skip a step. Give yourself freedom to be creative, but stick to the steps.
The delegation strategy is part of your leadership development system. If you want to raise up leaders, then delegate well.
HOW CLOSELY DO I MANAGE MY RECRUIT?
Answer: Once you have clearly communicated the purpose, process, and product, progressively give them ownership. Reward what you want repeated. Correct what you want stopped. Be careful not to micromanage. Don’t just give away a task. Transfer ownership. This is true delegation. Don’t allow your new leader to delegate the work back to you. They will try. Get good at saying, “I don’t know. What do you think?” They will get the picture.
Delegation is a process. At first you delegate a task, but methodically relinquish control until your new leader has authority and ownership under your leadership. Tell them, “You’ve got it! Now, make it better.” If you don’t give them the freedom to fail, you have not fully delegated.
WHAT IF I AM NOT GOOD AT CONFRONTATION?
Answer: Confrontation is part of delegation. Unfortunately, people don’t do what you expect. People do what you require. People don’t do what you ask. They do what you insist. And I have found, if they understand the purpose, they’ll do it gladly. You may have explained the standard, but when you allow substandard work, substandard becomes the new standard.
If you struggle to confront what needs correcting, read the book Crucial Conversations. Often, we struggle to confront because we don’t know how. I read this book twice, taught it to my staff, and took a course on it. If you are a leader you can learn to correct others graciously and effectively.
WHY SHOULD I ASK A VOLUNTEER TO DO WHAT I GET PAID TO DO?
Answer: It would be easy to jump on this question with harshness. But I understand this dilemma. There have been times I struggled with asking a volunteer to do certain things. I felt like I was putting a burden on people who were already busy, and often, too busy. However, my reticence was based on a faulty understanding.
First, understand if you are a pastor, you do not get paid to greet, do visual arts, create bulletins, or even preach. What you get paid to do is make disciples. Delegation is part of your disciple-making strategy. If you never give away the work, your people will never “obey all the commands”6 Jesus gave us. They must learn to do the things that make the church powerful in your community. Every time you delegate a ministry or task, you make disciples—you are multiplying Christ in you. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man [Jesus] came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”7
Secondly, recognize your church members are made for ministry. When people discover and deploy their gifts, you’ve helped them feel alive. By asking someone to use their gifts, you’ve burdened them about as much as you burden a fish when you ask it to swim or a bird when you ask it to fly. As I have heard said, “When you delegate, you don’t burden people, you bless them.” It is only a burden when you attempt to fill a position with someone who is not a fit for the role.
WHAT IF THE TASK MUST BE DONE AND THERE IS NO ONE TO DELEGATE IT TO?
Answer: There are three parts to this response:
- Reconsider the belief, “The task MUST be done.”
What are the consequences if this task is not done? Often, we only think it must be done because of tradition or the expectations of others.
- Reconsider the belief, “There is no one who can do it.”
Write up a brief job description. Share the need with all your staff and team leaders. Post it in your church bulletin, on your website, and in any other church communications.
- Consider outsourcing the task.
Look for a retired person with the skills you need and offer a stipend for their services. Use a temp service. Contract an individual who offers these services.
Don’t forget: God is building his church. He is putting people where they belong to build up the church.
If the work must be done, there is a volunteer to do the work or money to outsource that work. If neither is true, then don’t continue to do it.
WHAT IF THE CHURCH CAN’T GROW WITHOUT THIS MINISTRY?
Answer: There are more ways to grow a church than numerical growth. God may want to grow the church in prayer. God may want to grow the church in faith. Often, God grows a church internally before he grows it externally.
Remember and trust, God is building his church. You do not have to sacrifice your health, family or faith to lead a church to health and solid growth.
WHAT IF THE PERSON DOES NOT DO THE JOB AS WELL AS I CAN?
Answer: They won’t, at least not at first. This is part of delegation. We must trust that God is building his church. Be careful not to step in too quickly and thwart their learning process. A butterfly must fight its way out of the cocoon, or it will never develop the strength to fly.
IT’S TIME TO DELEGATE
Take the first step: DISCOVER YOUR “WHAT””. Set a goal to delegate just one of those things over the next two weeks. Maybe you can make a goal to delegate one thing a month. Whatever goal works for you, but do it. Delegate and watch your church begin to develop healthy and solid growth.
Why not pause and ask God to help you become proficient at the skill of delegation? Let me pray with you. Send me an email and tell me, “I’m on it.”
Got questions? Send them to me and I’ll get back to you.
Congratulations! You’ve got this. Get cracking!