The parking lot was filling up with cars and abuzz with people as we gathered to caravan to our annual all-church retreat. The advance team had gone ahead with the food and equipment.
Leaning against the playground fence, Alan commented, “I’m glad I don’t have your job.” At first his words puzzled me, but then he added, “But then you do a lot of delegating.” Alan was imagining how overwhelmed he would feel if he were in charge of retreat.
A few days later I ran into Alan and asked, “You remember when you said I did a lot of delegating for retreat? Actually, I didn’t.”
Although I’m head of staff out our church, I don’t delegate much. And it’s not because I’m a control freak.
It has to do with what administration looks like–or should look like–in the church. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 (ESV), Paul ranks some of the spiritual gifts:
then gifts of healing,
and various kinds of tongues.”
We’re used to thinking of administration as giving orders from the top of the chain of command. But in the one place where Paul ranks spiritual gifts, he places administration near the bottom.
Jesus says that rulers of the Gentiles “exercise authority over them” but we are not to do that but to be servants (Matt. 20:25-28). Servant leadership is more than leading with a servant heart; it’s leadership that empowers rather than controls.
My job isn’t to micromanage others’ ministries. My job is to nurture a culture that empowers people—and teams—to do what they’re called to do within the boundaries of the church’s vision and values. I equip, coach, encourage. But rarely delegate.
For our retreat, for example, I lined up the speakers. That’s it. The retreat director lined up teams to work with children and youth. Our kitchen team planned menus, bought food, and prepared it. Our Children’s Ministry Team prepared curriculum.
Do I ever delegate? Of course. When my computer acts up, I ask our IT guy to fix it. I ask our financial secretary when I need a check cut. Sometimes I ask my secretary to send meeting reminders. These support staff members’ job is to provide office support to ministry leaders, so we delegate stuff to them.
But I can only delegate what’s on my own plate. I can’t delegate to ministry team leaders because their work was never on my plate to begin with. It’s not my job to tell them what to do; it’s my job to support them with what’s on their plates.
So that morning in the parking lot, there was a good reason I was leaning back against the fence chatting with Alan. I wasn’t running things; I was just waiting to go on retreat!
- Which is more your default style—controlling leadership or empowering leadership?
- Do you know a servant leader who could help you strengthen your empowering leadership skills?