The Art of Delegation

Exodus 18:13-26 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture as a leader.  You have Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law (who happens to be a priest of Midian), coming to Moses bringing Moses’ wife and two sons to reunite them.  After arriving, Jethro notices a great injustice that is going on.  Moses had been the man to lead the Israelites out of bondage from Egypt.  God had set him up as a leader and intercessor for the people.

One big problem: Moses was doing it all by himself.

In this passage, Jethro gives some great advice about the art of delegation.  He shares with Moses that there is no way that this can go on for the long haul and be effective.  Moses had to train up some men and relinquish some of the duties to others so that he (and the people) wouldn’t be worn out.

I think one big reason that this passage means so much to me is that delegation is something I sometimes struggle with.  I have been blessed to serve in church student ministry since 1998.  I have had student ministries both large and small.  One key element with each of them is that no one person can do it all themselves.  I am often drawn back to the example of Jesus as He poured into 12 men so that the work might reach more.  Even God Himself realized and gave the example that no one human can do the work of God alone.  As leaders, we have been called to multiply ourselves and pass the baton on to others (Ephesians 4:11-12).

If this (training and delegation) is one of the key tasks in ministry, why do so few do it?  I have a couple of ideas…

  1. Ignorance. Many leaders have not been shown that they aren’t called to do it all.  In the study of duties of a minister, they look to 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus to give them a description of what leadership is to look like.  They miss this great truth in Ephesians 4 of one of the primary duties of a minister.
  2. Pride. Some leaders just have this chip on their shoulder and feel that “others can’t do it as good as I can.”  This is pride, and this kind of pride is sin.  For one who thinks that they are the only one who can do it, I have one question: are you greater than Jesus?  Even Jesus passed the baton of the church (under the direction of the Holy Spirit) to the apostles.
  3. Laziness. Let’s face it.  Training others and passing the baton off is hard work.  You have to take much time (and patience) in training someone to do what you do.  Some leaders feel that it would just be a better use of their time to do it themselves rather than invest in others.

In all of these excuses, one can see that all of them fall short of glorifying our Savior and Lord.  Honestly, I have fallen victim to each of these excuses in my time in ministry.  Each time seeing that though some ministry was being done, it was very limited.  What would happen if a leader did take this calling of training and delegating serious?

  1. Multiplied ministry. If one person can effectively minister and relate to about 12-15 people, how many people could effectively be reached and ministered to by two? Five? Ten?  The work of ministry is not something just to be left to the “professionals” (pastors, youth pastors, missionaries, etc).  Every believer is called to ministry.  It is just common sense then that the more trained leaders you have, the more ministry can be done.  The more ministry effectively done, the more lives touched and radically changed by God.  The more changed lives by God, the more glory He receives.
  2. Healthier Church. I use the term “Church” to refer to the entire body of believers not just a local congregation.  When leaders train and delegate, more saints realize that they are gifted and enabled to be a part of God’s work in this world.  The Church then starts to function as it was intended to – as the Body of Christ (a representation of Him).
  3. Healthier lives. When leaders train and delegate, they free their own lives up to take care of their own bodies and families.  A great word of wisdom that was given to me by my father in the ministry went something like this: “don’t lose your family trying to take care of everyone else’s.”  If we do not train and delegate some ministry responsibilities and try to do it all ourselves, then we will be no good to ourselves or our own families.  If you are burnt out from the stress of doing it all yourself, then what good would you be to others?  What good would your ministry be if your family is in shambles because you’re never there.  The last thing I want to hear my wife or children call me is “Bro. Anthony.”

To all the leaders out there, let’s get a grasp of the big picture and fulfill ALL of our calling.  It won’t be easy.  It probably won’t be a quick process, but the results are (I think) what God intended from the beginning.

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