Tue. Mar 2nd, 2021

By: Tim Massengale

In his book A Quest For Vitality In Religion, F. B. Edge draws a marked distinction between “the work of the Church” and “church work.” Church work is the humdrum routine of necessary, but often superficial, tasks. After all, someone must have the church van inspected, copy off the Sunday bulletin, and take Sunday’s offering deposits to the bank. Why not the pastor? Isn’t that what he’s there for?

On the other hand, “The work of the Church” is to do the tasks that Jesus would be doing if He was pastoring in your place.

“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel . . .” Matthew 9:35

This is what you should be doing also. Did you ever go to the bank and find the president typing the interoffice bulletin for printing? It’s not that he’s too good to prepare the bulletin or feels that’s it’s beneath him. Rather, he’s simply too busy; he’s got more important things to do. His time is valuable. True, the bulletin needs to be typed, but let others do it. Let the pastor give himself to study, to prayer, and to witnessing. Delegation is not so a pastor can sit back and do nothing; it is so he can do the things only he can do!


What is delegation? Many attempts have been made to define this. One, for example, says, “Delegation is giving others the right to make your decisions.” Another says, “Delegation is to give authority to accompany responsibility.” Yet a third declares, “Delegation is having other people do part of your work.” While all of these are true, as far as the church is concerned, they still fall short. Perhaps the best and most applicable definition is L.A. Allen’s: “Delegation is entrusting responsibility and authority and establishing lines of accountability.” That hits the mark dead center.

Delegation is learning how to identify the work that we are doing and devising methods of passing these pieces of work on to other people, yet still maintain a management check on these activities.


As your church begins to grow, the need to delegate will become greater. There are several symptoms that will alert you to this need. To ignore these warnings can be dangerous.

Every car has several small warning lights built into the dash. If one of these lights began to flash beside the word temperature, you would realize you had a problem. What should you do? You could pull the vehicle off the road, open the trunk, and take a small hammer out of our toolbox. Returning to the driver’s seat, you could scowl at the flashing light, then smash it soundly with the hammer. “There,” you exclaim in satisfaction, “I fixed it.” Then, about ten miles down the road, you would need a new engine.

Just the way your instrument light warns you, so the symptoms of needing to delegate will warn you. The warning light is not the problem. It only shows a greater problem that needs to be solved. Olen Hendrix, in his book, Management For The Christian Worker, gives several danger signals to watch for. To ignore these symptoms will hinder your growth.

1. You are not doing the big jobs that need to be done. Your job as the pastor is to do what only you can do. If you have no time to study, pray, counsel, visit, be a soul-winner, than something is wrong. Someone says, “I can never talk to our pastor. He’s always too busy .” Perhaps a department leader says, “I don’t know what my job is.” All of this is your job. Demoralization has set in. Your job is to work on that. If you are not doing the important jobs that need to be done in your church, you should consider delegation.

2. You now spent time on trivial tasks around the church that others could do. Here, we often face a problem of false modesty when we say “Well, I’m not too good. I can do that.” Or we make the statement “If Jesus washed the disciples feet, then I can clean the washrooms.” We recognize that there are some things which pastors will do that no one else is eager to do. Your willingness is not the issue. The fact is, we must not let trivial tasks force us into the place that we neglect what God has called us to do. This is particularly true if it only feeds our own estimation of how humble we are.

3. You are missing personal and church deadlines. If you are continually missing deadlines, are forever running late, or if you are backlogged so that you cannot get things done when they are supposed to be done, you need to consider delegation.

4. You have an imbalance in the work load of your directors. Some of your directors are under worked and others are overworked. You must help the overloaded to learn to delegate for themselves. One of the hardest things in the world to teach a person is to look at his work with the view, “Who can I get to do this so that I can give myself to a more important task?” We allow things that we do ourselves to become self imposed activities, instead of passing them out and insuring that others get them done.

5. You have saints who need new worlds to conquer. Maturing Christians need new spheres of responsibility. People need to grow. A frequent reason given for leaving a position or church is the feeling that there was nowhere left to go, that their spiritual growth was at a standstill.

The primary purpose of delegation is not just to rid ourselves of work that we don’t want to do, but is rather to develop people. Proper delegation is one of your most important tools of discipleship. Not only does it get the job done, it helps people grow in the process.

6. You have saints who, if trained, could handle the job better than you. One of the biggest problems in pastoring is our failure to properly appraise the potentialities of people we pastor. We serve
both the individual and the church well when we pass on challenging and rewarding tasks to others.


There are some barriers to delegation. Why is it that delegation is so difficult? Here are some reasons that pastors refuse to delegate:

1. There is a reluctance to admit limitation. Face it, we don’t like to admit that we can’t easily do something. The truth is, God has equipped you to do some things very well, while in other areas, He has not. A pastor must realize that there are always people, often more skilled than he is, who are willing to take real responsibility for some segment of the work if he is willing to let go. The biggest problem is getting the pastor to let go.

Too many pastors see themselves as “Lone Rangers.” But remember, even the Lone Ranger had “Tonto” and a score of other friends scattered across the terrain to help him.

2. Tradition, desire for prestige, desire to retain control or fear of losing control. Enough said.

3. Lack of confidence in your people. The more insecure we are, the more we tend to look with disdain upon the capacity of the people around us because, we think, that makes us look better or bigger. Why is this? I am not sure that I know the reason, but we ought to be the people of all people who are poised and confident. Is it that we are possessive of our positions and defensive of our churches and have only a minimum of goal commitment and vision?

4. You doubt your ability to train someone else to do it your way. Many times our appraisal is on the basis of “how” something is done, not “whether” it is done. As far as growth is concerned, “my way or no way” is a dead end street.

5. Impatience with people. We are not willing to take the time to allow people to learn. Equipping saints for ministry is a difficult task. It is time-consuming. Some feel that they spend more time fixing a poorly done project, or explaining how to do the project, than it would have taken to do the project themselves. They forget the learning process they themselves went through. They are not willing to let others make the same mistakes in learning that they made. We often place more emphasis on the project than upon developing people.

6. Ignorance. Some have never seen it done properly. Since they have no idea how to do it properly themselves, how can they train someone else? Others are ignorant of the New Testament pattern of ministry for pastors and saints. Ephesians 4:12 tells us that the duty of the ministry is to “perfect the saints” so that the saints may minister and edify the Body of Christ.

7. Shortsightedness. A pastor may have ambition for immediate results. With enthusiasm and energy, a preacher can assume all tasks and responsibilities, including that of soulwinning. Equipping the saints seldom brings “quick results.” The pastor may not realize that it is better to put ten men to work than to do the work of ten men. A short- term investment can bring a long-term payoff.

So let us summarize. We have said that all of the reasons for a pastor resisting delegation come from within, not from without. All the reasons for resisting delegation are emotional.

Now, some may argue, “not true! I would delegate if I had faithful people to take the responsibilities.” Often such an excuse is given in all sincerity. Yet this very statement reveals perhaps the most common reason pastors will not delegate. They are seeing their people as they now are, instead of what they could be. Jesus saw not a tax collector, a crude fisherman, or a publican. He saw apostles. He saw unrefined gold and unpolished gems. The pastor that waits until God sends him ready-made leaders will seldom delegate anything.


1. Evaluate your resources. If you know the potential of your people, their skills, their talents, their interests, you will be able to delegate more to their pleasure and to your profit as a leader. The best way for this to be done is to use a “talent” form. One such form, the “A.C.T.S. (Apostolic Christian Talent Search) questionnaire, is provided at the end of this chapter.

2. Recognize there are others just as talented and committed as you to the objectives of the church. The wise pastor has learned not to envy anybody. Besides being a sin, it’s just plain foolish. Everyone has something no other person has. God made us that way. You need to develop the abilities you have and make them outstanding. Allow others to grow as God has gifted them.

3. Take a hard look at how your church is not meeting its objectives and what needs to be done. Make a list of what type of positions, ministries, and tasks that you need. Sure it’s a “wish list,” but until you see the need, the tendency is to place delegation in low priority.

4. Have enough confidence in your people to give them the authority to do the job. Too many pastors ask competent leaders to assume responsibility without giving them the necessary authority to fulfill their tasks. Never give responsibility unless you are also willing to give authority. Unfortunately, some pastors are unwilling to share authority with anybody. Therefore a “bottle-neck” develops when every little decision must be first cleared with the pastor. This hinders growth.

5. Allow your leaders to make mistakes as they grow. Do you trust them? If so, grant them the same opportunity to make the same number of mistakes you made while learning. If you cannot trust them, then do not risk delegating to them responsibility. It will only bring ulcers. (But then, maybe you can tolerate the ulcers.)

We learn wisdom from failure
much more than from success.
We often discover what will do
by discovering what will not do,
and probably he who never made a mistake
never made a discovery.
– Samuel Smiles

6. Train your people. Every diamond was rough until it was polished. Leaders are not born, they are made, developed, worked, and fine tuned. Remember, you cannot only teach them, you must train them. There is a difference. It’s the difference between knowledge and skill. Your people will only become what you have put in them: if garbage is put in, than garbage will come out.

7. If necessary, take advantage of the “division of labor” principle. In simplified language, division of labor entails discovering what task needs to be done, discovering several persons who can do a portion of that task, then matching the round pegs with the round holes. You may not have one person who can do the entire job, but when the job is broken into smaller pieces, it can be given to four different people. They work as a team and you manage their various skills. A good example of this is appointing a “youth council,” made up of several young couples, instead of only a “youth leader.”

8. Maintain open communication with the individuals as they work. Some pastors (actually many) make the mistake of delegating a project or responsibility and then fail to maintain good communication with the individual while they are doing the work. Ninety percent of delegating fails because a failure to make the person accountable. When there is no accountability or communication, you abandon the man and the job.

9. Avoid reverse delegation. Once you have given a leader a responsibility, sometimes they will return to you with a problem that they want you to solve for them. The pastor should avoid solving it,
but instead, should help the leader to solve it for themselves. The pastor should encourage the director to bring their own possible solutions. Ask them, “What do you think should be done?” Help them to generate alternatives, analyze pros and cons, and think creatively. This helps your leaders to grow. To be an effective leader, they must learn to think for themselves. As you press people to develop, you will discover that they become increasingly more competent, capable, and less dependent on you for every little difficulty. As General George Patton said, “Don’t tell a man how to do every little thing. Tell him what you want done, and he’ll surprise you by his ingenuity.”

10. Be willing to take risks, with discretion. You win some, you loose some. Not every delegated responsibility works out. But your wins will usually outweigh the losses. Occasionally you get a “boat rocker”, but the rule of thumb is, take the risk of the boat rocker. It is easier to tame a wildcat than to arouse a Rip Van Winkle. As T. F. Tenney is fond of saying, “I’d rather cool down a fanatic than warm up a corpse.”

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