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Small Church Leadership: Delegation

Since we already said that delegating in a small church is no easy task, you're probably wondering why we've got a whole section on it. But while delegating may be hard, let's not write it off as being impossible just yet. Delegating is an important skill for any leader to learn.

Why You Should Delegate

At first thought, you may not think that you are able to delegate any of your work. But I want to give you two reasons why you should do your level best to delegate some of your work to others.

First, it's in your own best interests. You may be a very capable person, but you can't do everything. There are some things you are not capable of doing. And there are some things you can't do as well as others in your congregation can do.

If you're a one-man-band kind of leader, then get used to never taking a holiday. Because the next time you need a break, nobody in your church will be able to step in and take over any of your responsibilities. How could they possibly have any idea of how to carry out any of your tasks if they've never done them?

If you're smart, you'll share the load around. Unless, of course, you enjoy being under constant pressure and having everything depend on you. If that sounds like you, then you need to ask yourself why you feel that way. Do you feel insecure if others can do your job? Are you impatient if they don't perform perfectly? Whatever your reason, you need to get over it. Because if you don't, you'll eventually pay the price with burnout.

The second reason you should delegate is that it's in the best interests of those in your church. Many leaders don't realise that when they fail to delegate, they are actually stealing. What are they stealing? The ministries of their own people.

God has a plan for everyone in your church, and not just for you. Each person has strengths that God wants them to use in order to serve the rest of the church and reach out into the community. But if you're doing all the work, their gifts will be stifled. Who will God hold responsible for that? And when your people realise that they'll never get the opportunity to use their abilities in your church, can you blame them if they leave? If they have a desire to serve God, they'll be looking for somewhere where they can use their gifting in His service.

The kind of pattern where the pastor does everything and the congregation takes on the role of spectators has been very popular over the years. In this model, the pastor does the work of the ministry, and the congregation watch on. But this is the complete opposite of what the Bible teaches. Consider what Paul wrote:

Eph 4:11-12 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.

Who is to do the work of the ministry? The saints; in other words, all of God's people. What is the role of the leaders in the church? To equip the saints for their work of ministry. Leaders who fail to train and release their people into ministry are stealing the ministries of the very people God has entrusted them with so they can equip and release them.

How To Delegate

If you can see the importance of delegating, and are willing to begin delegating responsibilities to others, then I want to give you three simple steps in this process:

1. List your current tasks

In this first step, your goal is to compile a comprehensive list of everything you are currently doing. And when I say comprehensive, I mean comprehensive. It doesn't matter how small or menial the particular task may be, put it in the list. If a task has a number of steps that are taken separately, list them as separate items on the list.

Let me give you an example of the kinds of things that might be on this list of yours:

Message preparation

Preaching

Worship leading

Create data projector slides

Make visitors packs

Type up newsletter

Print or photocopy newsletter

Prepare Sunday announcements

Select Bible verse for offering

Lead home group

Plan church activities

Visitation

Hospitality

Update records

Pay bills

Prepare ministry roster

General administration

Pastoral meetings

Leadership Team preparation

Phone calls

Visitors' letters

Sunday run sheet

Organise new songs

Type minutes for leadership meetings

Update name and address list

You may have other commitments that you can put into this list. Make the list as exhaustive as possible. You can't really think about delegating until you have a complete and accurate picture of what it is you are currently doing.

2. Make a list of the things others might do

Before you make this list, there's something you need to do personally. You need to be able to confidently define your strengths. Unfortunately, a lot of people have no idea what their strengths are. So let me begin this by defining the word "strength" for you.

A strength is something you are good at and enjoy doing. It's not one without the other. You can't just be good at it, and you can't just enjoy it. For instance, I am good at administration and organisation, but I don't particularly enjoy doing them. So for me, administration is not a strength. I enjoy playing snooker, but I'm never going to win any prizes. That means it's not a strength either.

Once you've figured out what your strengths are, you need to match them up against the items in your current task list. Just put a tick against any of the tasks that fit well with your strengths. If you've placed a tick against everything on your list, then there are three options.

First option is that you're not doing very much. Some leaders do very little because they're happy with the status quo. They don't mind if their lives and ministries just amble along without achieving much at all. If that sounds like you, you need to make a choice: Either step up or step down. It's not fair on your people to be led by a person with no vision. So step up to what God meant you to be, or step down from your position and make room for someone else.

Option number two is that you are completely deluded. You think you're better than you really are. Of course, if you are deluded, you probably won't realise it and this website isn't going to help you very much anyway. But if this is you, get real. Nobody is good at everything.

Third option is that you really are a very capable person. The temptation for very capable people, however, is to do everything themselves. They are often convinced that, no matter what the job is, no one else can do it better than they can. But even if you're well able to do everything on the list, you probably don't enjoy every task, and you still need to delegate.

Once you've made a realistic assessment of your strengths and decided what's on your list that doesn't use them, you now have a new list which consists of tasks that others might do. Let's call this your Discard List because these are the tasks you'd like to discard.

Next, write your own wish list. This is a list of things that you wish were being done in or through your church, but currently aren't getting done because it seems there is no one available to do them. Even if you don't think anyone could do a particular task, include it anyway. You never know what latent abilities are out there in your congregation.

Blend your Wish List with your Discard List. Let's call this the Master List.

3. Delegate

Now before you get too excited, this isn't just an opportunity to dump all your most hated jobs on some poor, unsuspecting victims. There's a purpose behind this. That purpose is to create a win-win situation by lightening your own workload and empowering others for ministry. You need to keep in mind that this is an opportunity for your people to explore their strengths and make a meaningful contribution to the life of your church.

If you want to delegate effectively, you have to take to heart what Paul said in Phil 2:4 "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." As I already said, you have got to be aiming for a win-win situation.

Having figured out the tasks that don't align with your personal strengths, somehow those tasks now have to match up with the strengths of your people. As their leader, your aim is to release them into fruitful and fulfilling ministry.

First, you need to help them discover God's design in their lives. Teach and preach the importance of serving God, that God has a purpose for each one of them, and that He has designed them with that purpose in mind. There are even courses available to purchase. Don't do anything else till you have set this foundation.

However, this is only a step in the right direction. People only really discover their strengths as they actively pursue opportunities to serve God by taking up an actual area of service. So bring your Master List to the attention of the church. Tell them you are looking for people who are willing to serve God in any of the areas on the Master List.

Explain that this will put them on a road of discovery as they try to figure out their strengths. Since you have their best interests at heart, you will be watching to see if the job they are doing really is matched up to their strengths. In other words, they should enjoy what they are doing and be good at it. If they enjoy it, but aren't good at it, or vice versa, then it may not be their strength.

This is, of course, assuming that you've provided them with training for their new task. If you don't give any training, or find out where they can get it, then that's obviously going to impact whether or not they are good at what they do.

If you understand this process, then it will save you some real frustration. If someone in your church is not good at what they do, don't get angry or impatient with them, let them try something else. There's no shame in discovering that they're not good at something. It's a learning opportunity that helps them narrow down their options.

They need to clearly understand this. If they don't do well at something, you won't be angry with them. You're happy that they tried something because that's the first step to discovering their ministry. Maybe they will find something immediately that matches their strengths. Otherwise, it will be a process of elimination as they discover things they are not so good at and move closer to discovering what they are good at.

Your job is to help them in this.