My day job is serving as the Lead Pastor for a middle-sized church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I am blessed with a full-time Associate Pastor and several part-time staff members: Administrative Assistant, Children’s Director; Youth Director; Choir Director. Those are the paid staff. But I am also blessed with a large portion of the congregation where people know their gifts, are committed to the church’s ministry, engaged in various ministries of the church. I have a very capable team of middle managers-commission chairpersons, who operate their areas of ministry with intentionality, faithfulness, creativity, and responsibility. Even though I am the ranking officer of our church (if you are into hierarchy), I rarely concern myself with managing any areas handled by these staff members and commission chairpersons.
Last week was Holy Week, generally one of the busiest and most important times of the year in a church. It is a time when pastors often live at the church and run pretty ragged trying to keep and keep things going. After I finished preaching on Palm Sunday, I took off for three days and when I returned on Thursday I spent some time covering some things I still needed to tie up for Good Friday and Easter–minor things, things I might have even just left undone.
Trust me. I am leader who is committed to excellence. And because I believe the church to be in the most important business on the planet representing the God of all the Universe, I have pretty high standards. My time off was needed to recharge for Easter Sunday and its follow-up. I did not take off out of desperation or disinterest. I took off because of delegation.
Delegation is essential to effect leadership. No leader, no matter how skilled, organized, or energetic can lead alone. Especially in a complex organization of volunteers like the church. Attempts to do so are a recipe for personal burnout. Worse, they are a formula for a weak organization. When the leader thinks they have been the center of or involved in every aspect of their operation, they pretty much negate the responsibility and ownership of the other members of the team. They create a group of people who react the the leader’s direction, with no expectation or even permission to exercise initiative on their part.
Delegation requires a clearly articulated vision on the part of the leader, and proper equipping of the team to carry out that vision and its operation plan. But delegation also requires letting go of responsibility so that others might take it up. And responsibility also means conferring authority to carry out that responsibility.
Delegation requires knowledge of the team’s passions and abilities and trust in the team’s commitment to the mission. And delegation means the key leader must be willing to step out of the picture for a time so others can lead.
In my case, a major program for Maundy Thursday was placed 100% in the hands of three persons who deeply desired to do this program. Good Friday required assigning tasks to other leaders and giving them the freedom to make it happen. And Easter Sunrise was even on that delegated list as one of my elders and a member of my worship commission offered to plan the service and preach by the way, he had his stuff done almost three weeks ag0).
So all I had left to do was finish my Easter sermon–probably one of the most important things I will do as a pastor all year. A sermon is no small task, but with delegation of other things most pastors prefer to shoulder themselves, I am sure that sermon will be the best I can do, as well.
The end product of delegation can be deeper, richer, and more widely embraced.