“Giving ministry away to others is critical to a leader’s health and sanity, as well as essential for church health and expansion.”
Delegate /deləˌɡāt/ v.
entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself
“What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.” —Jethro, Moses’ father in law (Ex. 18:17–18)
“No, Mo! That dog don’t hunt!” —Exodus 18:17 (my paraphrase)
“You can’t do it all, you know.” —My wife
My son is a pastor in another state. These Leadership Mentoring exercises are an attempt to impart on him—and other church leaders—what God has given me. They are designed to be discussed over coffee or FaceTime in order to stimulate thinking and wrestle with leadership themes, skills and perspectives. They are not easy fixes, 1-2-3 strategies or spoon-fed biblical remedies. Rather, they are intended to stimulate investigation and an internal wrestling match resulting in deeper learning and more thoughtfully held values and convictions. The wrestling match has a shaping effect on us. Wrestle away!
Giving Ministry Away
Giving ministry away to others is critical to a leader’s health and sanity, as well as essential for church health and expansion.
I was sitting in a booth with a pastor-friend, detailing how I got all my ministry responsibilities accomplished each week. We were both church planters, and he was interested in my weekly “workflow.” I was also leading worship, so life was complicated. At the close of the 30-minute how-to-get-tons-done-in-a-finite-timeframe, he innocently asked, “Wow! Do you have any time for people?”
This floored me. I was oblivious. I was so busy doing all the functions of ministry that I didn’t realize I was doing ALL the functions of ministry! After all, I had the training, talent and skill set. But something was dreadfully wrong, and I knew it.
We must give ministry away to others. That means it may not get done as well or as professionally as those with a sheepskin. Or, it may mean that it is done quite a bit better because those doing it have a heart for it, the time to invest and the know-how to create effective solutions. And, there are more of them. Give ministry away.
The early church faced this early on. A group of Hellenistic widows were not getting cared for, and that was brought to the apostles. Instead of asking among themselves, “Which one of you would like to head this up?” they decided to broaden the ministry sphere with some new leaders.
“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 and sisters, 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.’ … They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread.” (Acts 6:2–4, 6)
Lots to learn here:
Effective leadership involves saying “no” for the right reasons. Perhaps we need to walk around the backyard and practice saying this? It’s been said that you’re the best pastor anyone has ever had until you say “no.”
A leader’s personal “yes” to what they’re supposed to be doing, and “no” to what they should not do, are both part of essential leadership. Thus, we must know how God has made us and how we are to serve in the current assignment. This can be difficult in a church plant or small church when we must wear many hats, but it is still essential for long-term church and leader health.
Raise up leaders.
There are legitimate needs that we (as leaders/pastors) cannot address personally. In his essay “The Stewardship of Time,” J. Hampton Keathley said, “The need does not constitute the call.” We need to acknowledge needs as legitimate without taking them on ourselves as “the solver.” It’s a classic rescuer-syndrome ploy.
If you’re a pastor, the ministry of the Word must get your primary attention, not the expectations of others. There can be a tremendous amount of pressure to comply with meeting specific needs, and we must always approach this—as Bill Hybels has said—“with a giant heart of grace.”
Give ministry away.
We are better, more effective leaders, when we focus on a few things and do them well. More like a laser, less like buckshot. And, the ministry weight is not nearly as crushing.
Good leaders don’t always do the recruiting, but they allow others to be raised up to more effectively build up the church. They may, however, set forth character metrics (qualifications) that up-and-coming leaders must have. This protects the church and ensures the work is done faithfully.
Raise up leaders.
We must be willing to divest some of our leadership authority onto others for the sake of God’s work being done more effectively. This means there must be trust in those who are recommending new leaders, as the pastor cannot know everyone equally (but it’s important that everyone is known by someone!).
The ministry spreads partly because the leaders were doing what they were supposed to be doing! They did not neglect it because there were unmet needs. There will always be unmet needs.
A subset of that group in Acts 6 (Stephen and Philip) made a greater impact, but that may not have happened had they not had the opportunity to step up, serve and lead.
Give ministry away. Raise up leaders.
- What are the primary responsibilities you have as a pastor/leader? Are those clearly defined? If not, why not?
- How does your gift mix (and skills) match the responsibilities you have?
- If your gift mix and your responsibilities do not match well, what are some possible consequences that will manifest over time? Why?
- Who are some leaders you are investing in who are in the leadership pipeline for future ministry deployment? Name two or three more leaders you will recruit soon.
- What criteria are you using to assess whether they are a good fit for future ministry? Friendship? Character? Gifting? Passion? Are they really leaders, or do you just want them to be leaders?
- Is your “how we raise up leaders” process clear and understood by all your present leadership?
- What are you most afraid of about raising up new leaders? Why?
- What skills, abilities and truth(s) can you adequately impart to others within a training-mentoring process?
- Do you like being “the one” people look to for everything? Why or why not? Is that a good/bad thing? Why or why not?
- Have you ever been called a “control freak”? How is this positive? How is it negative?
Raise up leaders. Give ministry away.
Bob Branch is the husband of Becky; father of Daniel, Hannah, Charis and Becca; father-in-law to Amelia and Nate, and the founder and pastor of The Springs Community Church in Temecula, California. Besides connecting with his family, he enjoys traveling, guitars, watches, football, baseball, Clive Cussler books, good coffee, sushi and almost all kinds of food.