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?
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.
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?