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10 Steps to Effective Ministry Delegation

Over the years, I have learned the hard way that doing the job alone just doesn’t work.  I should have listened to Three Dog Night.  They tried to teach me that “One Is the Loneliest Number That You’ll Ever Do,” but I just would not listen.  Being an avid football fan, I should have noticed that the teams with the most depth at key positions always win championships!  (Roll Tide, Go Saints!) Moses also learned the hard way about doing the job alone.  In Exodus chapter 18, we are told about how Moses did everything in ministry by himself, and it was causing problems on the job.  It was hard on the people, as well; it was also not good for Moses, and it was not good for his family.  Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, gave him some very wise advise and counsel.  Simply put, he was told to build depth!
I know what you are thinking: “My volunteers can’t teach a class or do children’s ministry as well as I can.”  That may be true, but there was a time in your life when you could not minister as well as you can now.  Someone allowed you to be sorry all over a group of kids and get better by doing the ministry hands-on.  We must give our volunteers the same chance we were given to learn by doing.

If you are doing things that others can do, it will keep you from doing what only you can do.  When you are doing the things in ministry that only you can do, that is when you will hear, Well done, My good and faithful servant.  Let’s take a look at the most famous biblical account of delegation.  It’s found in Acts 6, verses 1-4: “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables.  Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word.'”  Here we see it first-hand: The disciples were being kept from doing what only they could do by doing a project in ministry that others could do. 
There are people in your church who need to be needed more than you need the help.  They will never be able to rise up and free you to do what only you can do and to accomplish what you have been put on this Earth to accomplish if you continue to do most of the ministry as well as the majority of the oversight yourself.
The world would be in a mess without supervisors and coordinators to serve us in middle management positions. Why can’t we set up middle managers to help us?  Phone calls and the returning of messages are some other projects that can be easily delegated to others.  I would recommend that you be slow to delegate the handling of difficult decisions to others.  Jethro warned Moses of this very thing in Exodus 18:21-22But select capable men from all the people –men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain –and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.  Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves.  That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.”  You cannot delegate the responsibilities of building relationships with your key workers.  This is a job that you must do.  Defining the vision, evaluation, or fruit inspection as well as being ultimately responsible for the success of the children’s ministry of your church are projects only the leader should do.  

With these things in mind, let’s take a look at ten steps I use in effective delegation that will help you to develop depth in your volunteers through action and cause you to be a master of delegation and duplication.
1.      Identify what you need to be doing.  Let’s take a look at Acts 6: 2 one more time.  “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables.’”  The disciples were not too good to wait tables, but this project was keeping them from what they needed to be doing.  There are loads of good ideas and projects that keep us from doing the God-inspired and directed projects He has for us to do.  I have come to realize that it’s more important that I train, guide, manage, and recruit than teach, sing, perform, and be the only person that the children identify with.  The best thing I can do to grow is to allow others to be involved and not be a one-man show.
2.      Identify things others can do and let them do it.  Start with jobs you are doing that others could do if they were properly trained and coached.  Next, identify areas you could use a worker if people were no problem.  Don’t think that the same actions will bring different results because same actions always bring the same results.  “If you want what you have never had, you must be willing to do what you have never done!”  The same is true for every volunteer. You can’t build depth without allowing others to have playing time!
3.      Qualify all workers.  The disciples didn’t turn this responsibility over to just anybody.  They found people from among them.  People who were known.  There were requirements needed to do the job, like being full of the Spirit and being full of wisdom.  Jethro also gave Moses requirements for workers in Exodus 18:21, “But select capable men from all the people –men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.”  A major rule of delegation is qualify who you delegate responsibility to.  Are they capable and able?
4.      Define exactly what you want done.  Everyone needs a job description.  Especially volunteers!  They also need checklists to show them what you want them to do as well as to provide a way to communicate with you what was done.  Remember to always do what is best for the children and not what is only best for adults.  Rotation doesn’t work in building volunteers through action.  Look at verse 22 of Exodus 18, “Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.”  This was not a once a month job but something that was an all the time commitment.

5.      Train and teach those you recruit. Exodus 18:20 tells us to “Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform.”  You must model to others how you want it done.  Classes are good, but hands-on training is better.  Christians are the only people group I know that confuse the word training with verbal instruction.  Every secular job that offers training does so by verbal communication in addition to the hands-on training and mentoring.  You don’t have to be the only model.  I use my staff, master teachers, and coordinators to help me train and equip others.  Everyone should be helping in the training and equipping process.
6.      Push authority down!  It is extremely important that you always delegate authority along with responsibility.  One of the dumbest sayings I know is “The buck stops here.” There are many places for the buck to stop when you give authority to others.  Those you delegate to cannot carry out the tasks that you desire without the authority.
7.      Put your heart into the level of leadership under you.  A person cannot represent you well if they don’t have your heart.  You cannot put your heart into your volunteer leaders without making a commitment to spend time with them. Always take someone with you whenever you can.  Be quick to pass on what you know to someone else.  Allow those around you to ask questions. Establish excellent lines of communication.  Take advantage of every communication tool available.  I use meetings, newsletters, and e-mails.  
8.      Support and encourage those who help you.  It is imperative that you build a support structure around your volunteers. Our job is not to do all the work in children’s ministry but to train up others and prepare them for works of service.  In the same way, we must lead others by encouragement.  This is not as hard as you may think.  Here are five sure-fire ways to encourage your volunteers. 
  • Say thank you constantly. 
  • Catch people doing things right.  Complement your volunteers in a job well done. 
  • Take the calls of your volunteers.
  • Check on your volunteers and see how they are doing.  Use your M.B.W.A. degree: Management by Walking Around.
  • Help others be better at what they do, every chance you get.
9.      Make corrections and changes when necessary.  What if they quit?  Why be negative…if they quit, they quit, but what if they change and become a super leader?  If it’s not broke, don’t fix it; in other words, don’t make changes just for the sake of change.  Every service can be better than the last one if you make changes and corrections each week.  I make a list each Sunday, then spend my week correcting that list, then next week, I get to make a new list.
10.    Always set the pace, be the leader.  Be the kind of person you would like to work for.  Dare to lead no matter what.  Give your volunteers an example to follow and a model worth imitating. 
Delegation is not an option for those who want to succeed in ministry.  But to succeed, you must take inventory of where you are.  Start small and go from there.  I try to recruit my team one worker at a time.  Ask yourself and your volunteers, “What do I need to do differently?” What volunteers do you see potential in?  Commit to coach volunteers and let them learn by doing and you’ll have depth to win championships!

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Jim Wideman is an internationally recognized voice in children’s and family ministry. He is a much sought after speaker, teacher, author, personal leadership coach, and ministry consultant who has over 30 years experience in helping churches thrive. Jim created the Children’s Ministers Leadership Club in 1995 that is known today as "theClub" which has touched thousands of ministry leaders each month. Jim believes his marching orders are to spend the rest of his life taking what he has learn about leadership and ministry and pour it into the next generation of children’s, youth, and family ministry leaders.