Delegate or die… a lesson hard learned
I’ve been in Pastoral ministry for 20 years now, and with the exception of my first two roles (Jr. high youth guy, and Associate Pastor), all that time I’ve been in fairly small churches (150 tops). Being the “solo” guy has its ups and downs, and one of those is the many hats or responsibility that come with the turf. Most guys in the “solo” role are pretty competent, and like me, they just knuckle down and do what needs to be done. But what naturally happens in that scenario is at least these three things:
- All that minutia eventually becomes more than you can reasonably handle… and you’ll DIE.
- You deny people in your church family the opportunities for significant involvement they truly need.
- You wind up being distracted from the truly important things that are only yours to do.
I carried on like a “good” little pastor without delegating much of anything for years. The funny thing is this: I thought I didn’t have a problem delegating things. But I did. Nobody likes to think they have “control” issues, but we all do to some extent. I was no exception. I wanted things to be done up to a certain standard, and just didn’t think I’d have the time to train someone new to do things the way I wanted them done. Dumb… dumb… dumb.
It was in 2011, meeting in our “Healthy Church Network” that a group of us pastors were discussing this issue. That’s when things flipped for me. Three guys in the group, Greg, Jim, and Greg (thanks guys) took me to task as I asked some questions about the topic. They pushed, prodded, pried, and cajoled me into seeing the 3 things above… and I finally got it.
So, I headed home and immediately found some very competent ladies in our church to take over a good deal of the administrative stuff I was doing (thanks again “K” and “M” and “P”!). It took a while to train them, but it was SO worth it. They were not only happy to do it, but were also able to take things to another level! Bonus!
Just recently, while I was gone on sabbatical, our church made the “executive” decision to take all the things I had delegated to people for the duration of my absence, and farm them out on a more permanent basis. Their logic was ironclad:
If we can do this for 4 months while he’s gone, we can do it, period. That means he can do other things that are more important for him to do.
I haven’t said it enough since my return from sabbatical, but I have really appreciated that initiative… and do more each day I work at ministry. My plate is only as full as it needs to be now, rather than overfull.
The best part
There are a lot of “best parts” to this story, but the ones I like the most are these:
- There are 10 more people in our church family involved in doing significant things toward eternal ends.
- I’m freed up to do the things I love to do the most – study, preach, leadership development, discipleship, writing.
- And I don’t feel like my head is swimming… like it used to…