Some Thoughts on Delegation

Friday, April 26, 2019

Meeting around a table

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash


In Exodus 18 we see Moses get a lesson in delegation and developing a team. His father-in-law saw that he alone was sitting as judge over the issues that the people were facing. Every issue was coming through him and he was risking wearing himself out and frustrating the people he was leading.

Jethro's advice to him was to find good people and give them responsibility over the people according to their capacity. And only escalate issues to Moses that are greater than they can handle. Moses wisely followed the advice. Wisely because it was good advice that was helpful all around. And wisely because Jethro was his father-in-law, and it is always wise to keep the in-laws happy.

If you are the point person within a youth ministry, then you are often the vision carrier for the ministry. Depending on your church structure and personal leadership style, there is a level of ownership and "control" that you exercise over the youth ministry. That ownership brings with it a sense of personal responsibility that can mean that we hold quite tightly to the details of our programs and events. While it is important that you know the vision, values, culture and environment that you want to achieve, you also need to invite others into the picture and release them to serve in their way.

A number of years ago we were running a Sunday night youth church once a month. Pre-service we had set up a couple of spaces with a video game room, basketball hoop, pamper room. With the complexity of the set up we needed a team and so I delegated various roles. One role was for the management of the pamper room. I gave them their space, the parameters of what we wanted and then left it to them to manage and just let me know if there was anything they needed. I would check in to make sure they had what they needed etc but they owned that area. They got foot spas, nail care stuff, moved some comfortable into the room and put it back after, I think they even had some music playing. They achieved a much greater level than I ever could with everything else that I had going on.

When it comes to delegating, a couple of tips are below


Communicate clearly

Make sure you clearly communicate the vision, values, expectations and boundaries. Part of this may include having them repeat these back to you in their own words to make sure they have understood. Make sure they also know the extent of their authority, where they have freedom and when they need to communicate or get permission prior to acting. Ensure they know what they can expect from you as well, in terms of support and resource.

They need to know what you need from them and when. Things like updates, reports or budgets and their deadlines. Let them know milestones and deadlines if working on specific events or projects.

Unmet expectations is the greatest source of frustration for both leaders and those they lead. We can not expect those we lead to meet expectations that we have not communicated and they have not agreed to.


Lead people, manage processes

People are individuals who deserve respect and dignity. Some leaders think that those who "work for them" are their assets to manage however they like, using them to achieve whatever their latest goal is. This type of leadership leads to high turn over in people. As Christian leader's, Jesus is our example. Jesus had focus on his purpose but never treated those he led as pawns to be positioned.

Processes and assets can be managed and manipulated to best serve our aims, but people are to be shepherded and led in love.


Trust people but be aware of signs

Most of the time people will rise to the level of our expectations, eventually. But as mentioned in the previous point, they may need some shepherding to get there. So as a leader, delegation is a trust exercise where we partner with people, and over time more trust is built. But at the same time, stay aware of the state of the people you are leading. Sometimes people's priorities shift temporarily like in moments where a family crisis is in process or study pressure is on, and we need to stay aware to try and alleviate that pressure from them. Sometimes people's priorities shift permanently and they may stay serving but their heart has moved on. Sometimes they have issues that are conflicting with their effective service i.e. sin, insecurity, unredeemed ambitions etc.

The one thing I have learned is to trust the Holy Spirit in me. He often leads me to make decisions that in the moment may not make sense but are the best overall.


Let them fail and learn

We often forget that our rise in leadership is through our struggles and failings, not despite them. When we make the road of leadership and service too easy, we rob people of the strength and blessing that comes when we struggle through something difficult.

I am reminded of the illustration of the butterfly leaving the chrysalis. In the illustration, the person observing the butterfly struggle to get out of the chrysalis takes pity on it or grows impatient and helps pull the chrysalis open to release the butterfly. The issue was that the very struggle it was having was designed to push fluids out to the wings, and with no struggle, the butterfly never became able to fly.

Don't make things artificially difficult, but don't always rescue and save people from mistakes and failures. Help them learn and grow through them.


Allow for individuality

Not everyone will complete a task exactly how you would do it. Sure you may have done this many times and believe that your way is efficient and effective, but that is because you built your way around your strengths and weaknesses, and your understanding. Allow those you delegate responsibilities to, to express their individuality. I believe that 80/20 principle works here. 80% of the task is likely to be the same as you would do it, and 20% will probably reflect the person's individuality and God shape. So don't force people to do things your way, if the job is getting done and it does not conflict with your vision, values or culture then it will probably be ok.


We are not meant to do this alone. The Bible uses examples of armies, families and the parts of the human body to illustrate how the Church is to function. All those examples, when operating in a healthy way, means we rely on others, just as they rely on us. It won't always go well, but in the long run it is always better to learn to delegate well.

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