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Delegation Without Guilt

Delegation Without Guilt

Empowering Your Church Team Effectively

Jon Delger

Executive Pastor

Peace Church

Published On:

November 21, 2023

Pastors, church leaders, and church boards know that they can’t do it all, but how do they delegate important work to others without shucking their responsibility?

The primary objection I hear is this - “But that’s my responsibility. I am accountable to God and to other people for what happens. How can I pass it off to someone else?”

Let me quickly make the case for delegation and share some practical steps toward delegating.

The Case for Delegation in Your Church

There is much to be done; you can’t do it all.

What are the live options?

There are three - work more, do less, or delegate.

In a world of overwork, working more is rarely the solution.

Doing less in order to do a few things well should be the solution some of the time. Good leaders say “no” to good opportunities so they can focus on the best ones.

But what about the rest? What about work that must be done but does not belong on your plate?

Work may not belong on your plate for several reasons. Wise leaders are choosy about how they spend all their resources - not only time, but also energy, money, talent, and attention. There is also the question of calling - Is this something I am called to do? Is it something I am called not to do? Is this something someone else has been called and given the resources to do?

By the way, we left out a fourth option for handling work that doesn’t belong on your plate - promise to do it, but then never get around to it (or do it poorly) because there wasn’t really room on your plate. Also, not a good option.

Where does that leave us?

What do you do when your church needs hospitality ministry, but leading that ministry does not belong on the plate of your pastor? What do you do when your church needs someone to keep the books and do payroll, but none of your elders are gifted accountants? What do you do when a gentlemen within your church has the resources and calling to lead a ministry to men, but he’s not a pastor or elder?

For a great many situations, the answer is not to work more or do less, but to delegate. At this point, many throw up their hands and feel like they are surrendering to a necessary evil. They believe they are giving work to someone else when it should be done by them. They feel a mixed sense of guilt and fear.

This is when we must clearly distinguish delegation from abdication.

Abdication is a failure to fulfill a responsibility or duty (Oxford English Dictionary).

Delegation is to entrust a task or responsibility to another person (Oxford English Dictionary).

Delegation means entrusting someone else with the work while retaining responsibility for the outcome. This is difficult and important work.

How do we do it well?

Four Steps to Delegate Well

1) Determine what work to delegate.

At any given moment, there are lots of things we could do with our time, but what has God called us to keep at the center? For many pastors, it may be preaching and leadership. For boards, it should be big big-picture vision. Each leader should have a central focus in their role.

Each leader should always be working towards doing mostly what only they can do or have been called to do. All of us have to do things we don’t want to do or don’t feel called to do, but we should work towards keeping the main things the main things. Don’t hold onto tasks, projects, or ministries out of guilt. Think strategically. Does this fit into the bullseye of my calling or not?

2) Identify an appropriate person or party to delegate to.

If a task or project doesn’t fit into the bullseye of my calling, is there someone else who may be called or capable of taking it?

Don’t let “there is no one to take it, or there is no one as capable as I to take it” become an excuse. Find someone and teach them. Don’t let pride or fear win.

Don’t overspiritualize. Yes, we have been talking about calling and gifting. However, sometimes work simply needs to be done by someone who can do it. And sometimes, this is precisely how we discover our calling. Other times, this is how we imitate the servant-heart of our savior.

3) Delegate both responsibility and authority in appropriate proportions.

You have a task, project, or ministry to be delegated, and you have a person to receive it. Now what?

This is where the real work begins. There is a whole world of literature, education, and professionals built around steps 3 & 4 - it’s called management, and it is often done poorly.

Think of delegation as a hand-off. Doing it well begins with handing off the right things in the right proportions.

Giving a delegated party the responsibility for a project without the authority to make decisions, give orders, or spend funds will result in frustration. Holding all the authority in your own hands while giving all the responsibility to a delegate won’t work either, this is a typical mistake of a poor manager or board.

Delegating responsibility and authority in proper proportions is difficult and the amounts will vary with each project, person, and situation.

Read some management books, give it a try, and learn from your mistakes.

4) Develop a system for communication, accountability, and support.

Once you have completed the initial hand-off, the work is not over. Ongoing communication, support, and accountability are crucial to success.

Your delegate will need to be able to ask questions. You will need to give good and timely answers. They will need encouragement and input. You will want updates. You will want to continue to supply vision and direction. The delegate will need to be held accountable for the responsibility placed in their hands.

Don’t leave this all to chance. Work out a system for supplying these things. This may include regular meetings or reports.

The amount of communication, support, and accountability required will also vary with each project, person, and situation. Do it and work at improving all the time. Make room for feedback on both sides - manager and delegate.

Yes, delegation is a lot of work.

It has a formal name, its own category of literature, etc. - management.

It is often done poorly, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

If you want to lead, you must delegate.

If you’re going to delegate, think strategically, commit the time, and do it well.

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