Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. So Moses chose able men from all Israel and made them leaders over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They judged the people at all times; they would bring the hard cases to Moses, but they would judge every minor case themselves. Exodus 18:24-26
I have to admit that I’m a lot like Moses. No, not because I have a great shepherd’s staff or grew up as a prince in Egypt, but because like him, I can tend to make the mistake of trying to do everything myself. There’s a good chance that you can relate too because this is a common trap into which leaders fall.
But let’s be clear about this—we are called “leaders” not “doers” for a reason. If we as leaders are doing everything ourselves, we are not only going to burn ourselves out, but we are also failing to give our teams the opportunity to grow and be used by God, and we are limiting the ministries our kids and parents experience.
That is what Jethro saw Moses doing, so thankfully, he called Moses out for it. Jethro told Moses it wasn’t right for him to do all the judging. It was wearing him out and slowing the people down. There were plenty of good men who could partner with Moses to judge the people’s disputes. So Jethro challenged Moses to use them—to delegate the work.
We have to ask what Jethro would say to us if he saw how we ran our ministries. Would he give us the same advice—delegate more? Even if you are more of a collaborative leader, there is probably still more room for you to delegate. Here are five tips for delegating in a way that maximizes your team:
- Know what you need to do. Let’s just say this up front—while there are many tasks you can delegate and several that you should delegate, there are also some that you cannot delegate. There are going to be certain parts of your ministry that you simply cannot, and should not, pass to someone else. Start with making a list of these tasks. Know what you cannot give away and why.
- Make a stop doing list. Now go to the other end of the spectrum—the opposite of what you have to do. What tasks do you need to stop doing no matter what? We all have them. Some are big, others are small. Some we can delegate to others, some we will just have to let die. Think about the time and energy drainers in your schedule. Think about the tasks you do that show little to no benefit. Make a list of these and plan how and when you will stop each. You will probably need to repeat this regularly as tasks creep back into your schedule.
- Delegate the right tasks to the right people on your team. In between your list of what you have to do and what you need to stop doing lives a large number of tasks that you can give to others. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Make a chart with all of the tasks and the skills and gifts needed for each on one side and your team members and their skills on gifts on the other side. Now look for the matches. A wise leader will delegate the right tasks to the right people and set them, and more importantly the ministry, up for success. Delegating the wrong task to the wrong people is a recipe for frustration and hindered ministry.
- Let other people own what you give them but don’t abandon them. If you’ve ever driven a stick-shift car, you know how important it is to learn how to balance the clutch and accelerator pedal. Pressing too hard on one or the other will cause your car to jerk and sputter. Making a smooth transition between the two is essential. The same is true of delegating. Don’t dump off the task immediately—give the person time to learn it. Coach them as you slowly release it to them. But at the same time, make sure you do that—release the task to them. Don’t pseudo-delegate. Give it over to your team member but let them know you are always available to them if they need you.
- Strive for redundancy. As you delegate tasks to your team members, be sure to think of the long-term. Seek to delegate each task to more than one team member to minimize ministry bottlenecks—where only one person knows how to do something—which can choke and even halt ministry. A good goal is for multiple team members to be able to do every task in your ministry. That maximizes your team’s effectiveness and also positions your ministry to flourish even as leaders take vacations, get sick, or leave your team.
Next time — Lois and Eunice: How do leaders grow their teams?
Brian Dembowczyk is the managing editor for The Gospel Project. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to Lifeway. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.