Monday, May 16, 2011


Everyone in ministry knows the pressures of feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it.  But the truth is, delegating some of it to others is easier said than done.  Especially if it is going to be  done right where people are “empowered and encouraged” and not just "used and abused".  We also all know that delegation, at least initially, can often take more time or energy than just doing it yourself.

So over the years I have a developed a mental framework that I try and think through when delegating to volunteers or even a paid helper.  My goal is always that everyone is valued and useful and no one feels like a servant of my agenda or overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations or even underwhelmed by trivial tasks that minimize their contribution.  To that end, I try and match their leadership capacity with the right task through these four basic categories:

These volunteers are valuable servants, but not take charge leaders.  They require a specific task list to be successful. They might make phone calls, drive a vehicle, get food, or photocopy fliers.  But they don’t do all of it.  If you ask them to lead something, they’ll freeze and freak out. They serve one step at a time.  So make a to do list and call someone like this to help.  They love helping and you’ll be glad you asked.

These volunteers are trustworthy helpers, but not visionary people.  They will do a lot for you, as long as you give them rails to run on.  If you want them to lead a small group, they can.  But they need curriculum, a list of expectations, and a follow up from you to make sure nothing derailed them.   If you give them one thing to do, they’ll feel like they are wasting their time.  If you give them 10 things with no direction, they’ll fumble.  So set up a training time, give them the resources they need, and let their engines run on the tracks you gave them.

This volunteer is a well intentioned, but dangerous leader.  I love this group, but if not kept in check, they start stuff without talking to you and can cause problems accidentally.  (Like they planned their small group retreat, called the parents, and did everything perfect… except it is the same weekend of your ski trip.) They might be able to oversee an entire event or lead a small group on their own, but they need to know what you expect and what you don’t want.  They need regular communication and regular checks and balances.  The key to this person is to have them work with you as a co-leader first.   Give them big roles, but stay in the loop. Once you feel confident they know what you do or don’t want them doing and the lines of communication are open…. then you’re good to go.

This is a tried and true leader.  You will probably only have a handful of these people.  You can have them teach, lead the music, design a flyer, or oversee an entire event depending on their gifts and talents.  However, do not underestimate their ability or corner them with a small to do list or they’ll leave to find a place they are truly needed.  This person is someone you bring into your vision brainstorm meetings, empower with a piece of your ministry, and then walk away knowing full well that they will get it done and probably better than you could have done it anyway.   If you have one of these, what are you waiting for.  Give them a piece of your ministry now.



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San Diego, CA
Husband. Dad. Jesus Follower. Friend. Learner. Athlete. Soccer coach. Reader. Builder. Dreamer. Pastor. Communicator. Knucklehead.

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