The [Biblical] Art of Delegation

I have a crush on Moses.  You know, the sandle-removing, robe-wearing, sea-parting Moses.  In fact, of all the Old Testament leaders, Moses might just be my all-time favorite.  The list is long and varied, but part of my love for him stems from not his longevity in leadership, but in the fact that his history is full of a lot of “cat-herding” moments.  The kind of moments where he knows what should be done, communicates that vision clearly [you know, because it’s from God], and then listens to the people whine and complain or watches them ignore it completely. 

Can I get a witness, leaders?

No worries, you’re in good company.  Early on in their exile in the desert, Moses has just about had it.  The Lord provided them with manna to eat but soon the people were tired of the manna and craved meat [Numbers 11].  How quickly they have forgotten their hunger when there was nothing to eat and oh, how they rejoiced at the manna!  But now, it’s not enough.  They want more.  Their new normal of manna every day is now tired and they want variety.

Sound familiar?  Obviously, God is mad and so is Moses.  Now, I don’t know how you would respond but here’s what Moses says to God:

I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery! [Numbers 11:14-15]

Come on, now.  You know you’ve at least thought this at one point or another.  But here’s the key in this: Moses was doing this on his own.  He was shouldering the burden of leadership for everyone and he was the guy who had to make the decision for everything.

He was probably overwhelmed because leading people is sometimes a lot like herding cats.  

Be okay with giving some of it away.
God responded not with a good old fashioned Old Testament smiting but instead with this:

Gather before me seventy men who are recognized as elders and leaders of Israel. Bring them to the Tabernacle to stand there with you. I will come down and talk to you there. I will take some of the Spirit that is upon you, and I will put the Spirit upon them also. They will bear the burden of the people along with you, so you will not have to carry it alone. [Numbers 11:16-17 NLT]

Even the greatest leaders need other leaders to stand with them.   We are not built to be the final say on every little detail, nor are we supposed to even think we could handle all of that in the first place.  Who do you have on your teams right now, that, with a little training could stand with you and further the vision that God has given you?  Or who is already in a position of leadership that needs a little prodding to take on more and go further?

Choose wisely.
Be wary that you don’t just pick the loudest or the bossiest of the bunch.  For a while there was this idea in churches that if you gave the biggest opponent a leading role they would own it and become a champion for your ministry.  That’s very rarely true.  The opposite tends to happen and now you’ve given that person a bigger voice with a larger audience coupled with the ability to make decisions in your place.  Instead, think about your strengths and then look around for someone who compliments it with their own.  Are you really great at casting vision but lack the organizational skills to accomplish it?  Do you think strategically, sometimes at the risk of relationships?  Sometimes the greatest leaders to share the burden with are the ones who can connect the dots that you can’t, or even the ones who have the strengths that you don’t.  There’s no magic formula for finding the right kinds of leaders to lead with you and it’s a tricky tricky balance to get that just right.  But, when you tap others on the shoulder to share the burden of ministry with you, it allows you to focus on the vision and work with others to accomplish it.

Be accountable.
Delegating tasks to others does not mean that you no longer have to do anything.  That makes you a jerk.  Nobody likes that kind of leader.  Instead, give away the things you aren’t awesome at doing and then focus on the things that you are awesome at doing.  Take some leadership advice from The Lego Movie [“Everything is awesome.  Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.”]  Some of the best teams I know recognize this and utilize everyone in their strengths rather than expecting everyone to do everything in their silos.  Be accountable to your team and hold them accountable as well.  Allow them the freedom to test boundaries and find their sweet spot within the context of the overall vision and re-evaluate when you get sidetracked. 

These are just a few of the bigger things to remember when delegating and giving away ministry, what are some other things that you focus on?

NASCAR Leadership

Photo Credit

A couple of summers ago I drove a race car. On a track. At 150mph. By myself.

Sure, the Ricky Bobby jokes abounded as we piled in the car and drove to Charlotte Motor Speedway, but the actual experience was one of the most intense things I’ve ever done.

There was a quick training session, most of which I couldn’t listen to because all I could think in my head was 1.) please don’t let me die, 2.) please don’t let me go flying into the wall, and 3.) Ricky Bobby you are not on fire.

The inside of my head is a strange place to be sometimes.

As I put on my racing suit and got fitted for a helmet I watched as the group ahead of me went flying out of Pit Row and started racing. I noticed quickly that there were two kinds of drivers: the drivers who never could get their speed up and the ones who pushed the limits of their cars.

There was no in-between. On that track you are either all in or you’re sidelined.

As I was sitting in my own car, the engine idling and my pit crew yelling last minute instructions to me the anticipation of the entire thing was enough to make me want to bail out, put my feet back on the ground, and watch others race their guts out. I envied my 1 year old, blissfully asleep in his stroller.

But I stayed because my dad and brother were there, too and I wasn’t about to wuss out. Suddenly, a voice comes through my helmet: it’s my pit crew chief. He reminds me that as soon as that flag waves that I need to hit Pit Row and pick up speed quickly in order to hit the track correctly. Too much speed and it would be hard to take the first turn, too little and I’d never get it back in time to fully experience everything the car and the track has to offer.

Just for good measure, I asked him if he was sure that they were willing to trust me to do this.  His response?  He laughed and told me to “git ‘er done, girl.”


With that glittering piece of advice, I left Pit Row at the right speed, wimped out the first couple of turns but then I hit my stride. They weren’t lying in orientation, these cars were made for this. I can test its limits. My pit crew chief was my second set of eyes, keeping watch over me in the car and giving me continual feedback. He could see the road ahead while I was intensely focused on the immediate needs, like, not careening into the wall.

Sometimes our faith is like that. And our leadership. We can feel our heart race with the anticipation of what God has built us to do but we’re too scared to put on the helmet, or get in the car, or race out of Pit Row. We’d rather put on some headphones and take a nap, or watch someone else drive our car for us. Then, sometimes we race out of Pit Row and get tripped up at the first turn. Somebody criticizes the decision, a board member no longer supports you publicly, a key volunteer leaves; and yet, you’re racing.  And it’s dripping in clarity and vision that can only come from the Lord.  Faith and leadership are just like those two kinds of racers: you are either all in or you are sidelined.  There is no in-between.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)

As leaders, especially church leaders, we have a great responsibility to lead without fear. To lead without worrying about whether or not you, like the race car, were built for it. There are things that only you can do well. There are things only others can do well. Neither is better or worse because of it.  What is the weight that is slowing you down?  Is it wanting everyone to agree with your decision? (They won’t)  Is it worry that you can’t actually accomplish that big hairy dream in your heart?  (You can)  Is it a personal sin that is keeping you from experiencing all that God has for you?  (Get rid of it)

 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. (Hebrews 12:2-3 NLT)

Just as my pit crew chief was keeping his eyes on me and the track, so does Christ for you when you’re leading in His will.  It doesn’t say there won’t be haters, it doesn’t mean it will be easy, but you will always be restless until you take that first step down the road He has prepared for you.  Boogity, boogity, boogity, Amen

You are breathing air in this piece of history for a reason, leader.  What are you going to do with it?

Creating an FX: Ask Big

If you’re just joining me, I’m in the middle of a series about one of my favorite parts of children’s ministry: The Family Experience (FX).  Catch up here, and here.

How you ask them matters.

Especially when you’re asking them to do something they haven’t ever done before.

You know, like prance around in a Shakespearean costume.  Or take a pie to the face.  Or tell a story using a live duck.  [2 of those were real life examples, 1 wasn’t.  I’ll let you decide which one was false.]

The point is, you’ve got to be strategic about it.

You’re not asking them to help, you’re asking them to lead.
Chances are you have no shortage of helpers in your ministry.  These are the folks who are more than willing to show up on Sunday morning and pour the coffee, or run the errands, or hold the babies.  And you’ll need a team of those folks to be your door greeters, tech team, prop masters, and random-task-runners.  For your stage and production team (which, is likely to also be your creative team — at least in the beginning), you have to make the clear distinction between helping and leading.  Helpers want to be told what to do, leaders dream about it with you.  Helpers jump in when needed, leaders anticipate what’s next.  Building your FX team on the foundation of a couple of key leaders [and not just you] is going to sustain it and breathe life into it season after season.  They provide fresh ideas and eyes on the ministry that you just can’t see sometimes.  Trust me, my creative team saved me on numerous occasions!

They need to see they belong to a bigger story.
If vision casting isn’t a part of your ‘ask’ it needs to be.  Think about this: you’re asking someone to get on stage in front of kids and parents [their peers] and potentially [probably] do something insane.  When you approach them, lay out the heart behind your FX and specifically where you see them.  As you build them up by calling out their gifts, tie them back to the bigger story that God uses imperfect people in unlikely ways to build his Kingdom.  The best FX realizes that it’s not a “kids program” but a strategic investment in families to launch them into conversations at home that center around character and faith.  And yes, that’s a really great sentence to stick in your back pocket and bring it out when you’re sharing this dream with your staff, pastors, elders, and board.  Assuming, that is, you have some of those folks shooting you sideways glances when you add a rubber chicken catapult into your budget for next year.  Real talk.

Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer [the first time].
The knee-jerk ‘no’ is always the easiest for potential leaders.  Do you blame them?  There’s scripts to learn, rehearsals to attend, a crazy-eyed children’s leader with a big hairy dream, and the awesome responsibility of getting kids and parents together to talk about the [messy] stuff of character and faith.  And if they’re as good as you know they are, chances are they won’t just jump immediately on board but will need some time to process what you’re asking them.  If you hear ‘no’ from the same person a couple of times, it’s legit; give them the space they need to process and maybe even see a couple of your FX’s in action before coming around to them again with a final “I can see you really adding your creative energy to __________, love to have you on our team if you’re ready to impact our families in a huge way!”

Bottom line: if you reek of L’eau d’Desperate nobody is going to come within 100 feet of you.  Imagine if you got on an airplane and the captain said to you, “I sure hope this thing flies today.  Oh, and by the way, can you sit in the cockpit and push some buttons for me?  Don’t worry what they do, just push the buttons I tell you to push when I tell you to push them.”

Yeah, I’d run too.  Instead, let your enthusiasm and passion for your FX and families gush out of you so leaders come running towards you rather than as far as they can away from you.  You can do it, leader!  I’m cheering you the whole way!