Delegation

In a recent blog I encouraged those of us who are inherently ‘busy’ people to take steps to rest and spend time with God as a priority. As part of that, there will be tasks we are doing that we need to hand over to someone else, whether giving them complete responsibility, or by delegating aspects of the task to another person.

So how do we do this?

To delegate is to entrust a task or responsibility to another person. We see a couple of really clear examples of this being used in the Bible; with Moses, and the Apostles.

In Exodus 18, God has just brought the Israelites out from under the rule of Pharaoh in Egypt with Moses as their leader. So we catch up with Moses as he tries to carry out his new responsibility of managing the disputes and needs of the newly freed Israelites as they negotiate life in the desert, whilst still finding time to seek God and His direction for them. It’s a pretty daunting task, and that’s before we remember that there are around 600,000 men, besides women and children! I think it is safe to assume that Moses was a busy man.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law swings by for a visit. He watches Moses in action for a day, and then gives Moses some advice: delegate. He points out that Moses’ current method of doing it all himself will result in both himself and the people being worn out. It’s working for no one. He suggests Moses appoints capable leaders who fear God and are trustworthy to serve over smaller denominations of people, with Moses focusing on the task of seeking God and teaching the people. ‘That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.’ (vs.22) 

‘That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.’ Exodus 18:22

 

We see the Apostles faced with a similar situation in Acts 6. The early church is growing fast and the Apostles are carrying out their tasks of teaching the word and prayer, but they’re also trying to handle the increasing conflicts between the different members of the church about who gets what food. They recognise that the time they’re giving to resolve these conflicts is causing them to neglect the ministry of the word that they have been called to, and so they take action: they delegate. They appoint 7 men, full of the Spirit and of wisdom and give them the responsibility of handling the food allocations. This releases the Apostles to carry out their ministry. Do you know what happens as a result of this? ‘So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.’ (vs.7) That’s a pretty great outcome.

So how does this apply to your situation? I imagine it is unlikely that you are in charge of over a million people, but each of us, whether at home, work or church, can be faced with tasks and responsibilities which seem overwhelming. We are also probably familiar with the frustration of being bogged down with day-to-day urgent tasks and therefore unable to focus on the things we feel are most important, perhaps the things we feel most gifted towards or called to. So here is your action: delegate. 

You have to invest time in this in the short term to make time long term

Now I hear you saying it: “there’s no one else who knows how to do it and I don’t have time to train anyone!” I have been there and I agree – it is rather unusual to find someone skilled and willing just waiting to help you and identifying and training someone new can be time consuming. But you have to invest time in this in the short term to make time long term.  

 

First you need to identify the right person. In the passages above we see Moses choose capable men who fear God and are trustworthy. Similarly the Apostles chose those full of the Spirit and of wisdom. What I find interesting here is that there is as much emphasis on the chosen people’s character and attitude to God as there is on their ability. I think this is something we often overlook when assessing someone’s suitability for a responsibility. I encourage you to prayerfully consider who to choose – seek God’s wisdom and discernment and remember He doesn’t always choose the obvious person.

Once you have identified someone to delegate to, you will need to train them and give them the authority they need to carry out the task on your behalf. There is a widely used model for delegation that you may find helpful:

 

 

This model shows the process of delegating a task to someone. You start by letting them observe how you do the task and talking to them about what is involved. You then get them to help you with the task, giving them parts of it to try. Gradually you switch roles so they are doing the task with your assistance. Finally, you step back and observe as they have a go by themselves. At each stage you will need to be talking to each other to check understanding and to clarify or correct. 

This process might take 5 minutes for a small task, or months for a bigger project handover. Try not to cut corners, as you’ll probably find the whole task back in your lap when they struggle and fail without having had good initial support. Ultimately, once they are able to do the task confidently, they can then begin training up another person, and so we raise up and multiply lots of leaders to share the load.

 

By choosing to delegate, we not only free ourselves up to focus on the tasks which only we can do, but we also create opportunities for others to grow and flourish in their character,  gifts and ministry. As I look back on my life, I am able to do my current roles thanks to someone somewhere in my journey seeing potential in me and entrusting me with responsibility. Take the opportunity today to give this chance to someone you know.

we create opportunities for others to grow and flourish

If you would like some help with how to delegate in your role, please get in touch!

Jen Thornton
Learning Mentor for Empowering Leadership and Gift-based Ministry