In my experience, many in ministry are poor delegators for various reasons. Local pastors in small churches often feel as though they don’t have enough qualified congregants to delegate appropriately, in which case, we’d instead discuss how to say “no” in ministry – if a task requires delegation, and you can’t delegate, so say no. More often, ministry leaders delegate poorly because they fail to see the potential in their disciples, and thus, find it difficult to trust them.
My personal ministry experience has been different. I love delegating, and I have a knack for seeing the potential in people. I’ve also seen the immense fruit that grows when I delegate. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is sanctifying. Yes, it doesn’t always go according to plan. But delegating effectively necessitates that others are uplifted, credit is shared, and the work of the Lord is carried out most effectively. Therefore, it’s worth doing—and actually, I’d go so far as to say it must be done."Delegating effectively necessitates that others are uplifted, credit is shared, and the work of the Lord is carried out most effectively." -Austin Pfrimmer #collegiatedisciplemaker The Real Problem with Delegation (and It’s Not Our… Click To Tweet
Overcoming Obstacles in Delegating is Our Responsibility
For the campus missionary, delegating can seem extra difficult because our candidates for leadership are students. “That’s the truth,” many of my peers might say, but here’s the catch: delegating students is difficult because of us, not them.
My wife and I attended a collegiate retreat a few weeks ago. During one session, a campus missionary made a comment that was meant to be relatable:
“I’ve been struggling to have patience with my student leader, but sometimes I forget that they’re just a 23-year-old with a lot to learn.”
I think this person was hoping for nods of agreement, maybe a chuckle or two from those who could relate, but the room was mostly filled with ministry leaders who are in their mid-twenties (like me).
Age of the hearers aside, the statement has an underlying problem. In attempting to describe a hindrance to delegation that was produced by the student, the campus missionary revealed the real obstacle in their first few words: “I’ve been struggling to have patience.” When the Lord brings student leaders to us, we become responsible for gauging their potential, discipling them for leadership, and trusting them with their tasks. If students require more patience from us to be properly discipled, the only obstacle we face is our own impatience.
As we study this topic together over the course of a few articles, we will discover that delegation is necessary for our ministry, our family life, and our health. We will also find biblical instruction for delegation just about everywhere we turn in Scripture. If we run into obstacles while training, appointing, and trusting candidates for leadership, does the mandate for delegation change? It doesn’t, and neither does our desperate need to delegate for both our sake and our students’. It is imperative that we delegate in ministry, and thus, overcome any obstacles that come our way while doing so. Reflecting on our experiences will often reveal to us that those obstacles come from us, not our students.
Before we dive into the first article in this series, let’s pause here. Take some time to examine your own leadership style and delegation practices. You might work through this list of questions so that as this series unfolds, you can have an honest conversation with yourself and the Lord about what truly keeps you from delegating and how you can grow in this area of leadership. You might even consider working through this list of questions with your student leaders—let them honestly speak into your leadership, and challenge them to think about their own leadership.
- Consider all of your ministry responsibilities.
- What percentage of those responsibilities do you carry out yourself, and what percentage do you delegate to others?
- What percentage of those responsibilities must be done by you, and what percentage could theoretically be done by others?
- Is there a discrepancy between a and b?
- What “prerequisites” do you typically feel you need to see from a student before you delegate a task to them?
- Consider the times when a student has failed to execute a task you delegated to them.
- How did the task compare to their maturity and readiness?
- Did you communicate clear expectations to the student? If so, how?
- What instructions, training, and resources did you give them?
- Did you keep tabs on their progress? If so, how did you offer ongoing help, oversight, and accountability?
- Take a look at your own heart. Why did you delegate that task to that student in the first place, and what was your response when it didn’t go as planned?
- Jot down the first 3-5 things that come to your mind when you hear these statements:
- “I don’t delegate because…”
- “I’d delegate more if…”
- “Delegating never works because…”