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!

A word to the busy…

‘When you want something doing, ask a busy person’. This saying is often said in jest, but it has its basis in reality. Often there are a small number of people doing a large chunk of the work. When a new task comes along, those people are already in the habit of doing, of planning, of meeting deadlines, so squeezing one extra thing in is a possibly a nuisance, but manageable. They either volunteer willingly or are volunteered by others who see them as capable.

Does this sound familiar? Nowadays it feels as though ‘busy’ has surpassed ‘fine’ as the most common response to the question ‘How are you?’. We repeatedly tell everyone how busy we are, as if busyness is a virtue. Yet my sense is that we are more tired, less healthy and less productive despite our unending efforts.

In Luke 10, we’re introduced to Martha. Now Martha gets a bad rap sometimes, but I’m pretty fond of her as I think we have a lot in common! Martha has opened her home to Jesus and those with him and is rushing around preparing a meal for them. She is being hospitable and this is not wrong – Jesus showing up at your house is kind of a big deal! However, in her desire to serve their meal, she has missed an opportunity to sit with the Lord and learn from Him. With her focus narrowed in on the tasks that need doing, she looks to her sister for help, and sees that Mary is doing nothing. This is unfair! We don’t know whether Martha is just annoyed that her sister is doing nothing while she has to work, or whether she is longing to be there with Mary and Jesus, and wants Mary’s help so they can finish faster. Either way, she cries out to Jesus and His words to Martha make something clear. Time with Him is the priority. Don’t be so distracted and focussed on the things you are doing, that you miss out on the moments of being with God.

 

Is this something you do? As a busy person, I certainly can become focused on the important tasks on my to-do list, and they often are important. However in my focus on those tasks, I can put off and put off my quiet times until the tasks are all done…but I never quite get to the end of that list. I cry out to God that it’s unfair and I need help to get through my list! But I think what Jesus said to Martha is His message to us too: stop and spend time just being with Him. Stop before the list is complete, even when there is a pressing deadline. Don’t miss those special moments in God’s presence.

Don’t be so distracted and focused on the things you are doing that you miss out on the moments of being with God

Your value does not depend on what you achieve

Busy person: your value is not based on how much you do. Your value does not depend on what you achieve, nor is it impacted by another’s opinion of you. You are a precious and valued child of God. Your identity as His beloved child is unshakeable. First and foremost, that is who you are, by His grace. Just let that sink in.

Our Father God invites us to rest. He gave us the command to keep the Sabbath, a day of rest set apart to the Lord. He knows we need it and it demonstrates our trust in Him that we stop for a day, believing He will provide for our needs despite our lack of work, as we rest in Him. After Jesus sends out the twelve disciples and they have returned full of stories of all the things they have done, Jesus responds by saying: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” He knows what we need, a pattern of work and rest. The world will not stop spinning if you step out of the flow for a break.

So let’s look at that to-do list of yours for a moment, not to see what task to cross off next, but to prayerfully consider the content. As you look down the list, take a few moments to ponder these questions:

  • What is your attitude towards this list? 
    Do you grumble your way through it? Procrastinate? Enjoy the challenge? 
  • How many of the tasks relate to a role or responsibility you have? 
    Are they essential tasks? If not, what is their purpose? Is the number of roles you do sustainable? 
  • Which ones do you enjoy? 
    Which are you good at? Which drain your energy? 
  • Which tasks could be done by someone else? 
    Why are you doing these tasks? What prevents you from handing them over to someone else? 
  • Do you fear not being busy? 
    Why/why not? 
  • Does spending time with God always get pushed to the bottom of your list? 
    Why might this happen?

I encourage you to take a marker to your to-do list and blot out any unnecessary tasks. Take steps to delegate and pass on tasks that you don’t need to be doing (more on how to do this in a future post). But most importantly, fight to protect and prioritise your time with the Lord. Whatever that looks like for you, be it quiet prayer and bible study, a walk in the countryside, getting to the midweek Eucharist – whatever helps you encounter God and know Him more, prioritise it. Rest in Him. He will strengthen and nourish you with His love and grace. This is your choice.

whatever helps you encounter God and know Him more, prioritise it

Time for a retreat?

At work we are assigned three days for retreat each year. Initially I was excited by this – what an amazing gift to be given three days to intentionally quiet myself enough to hear God’s voice and to rest in His presence. I’d heard of retreats and dabbled in a few quiet mornings but this was a new opportunity for me. Then, being me, I began to overthink the idea and became daunted by it, thinking that because it was for work I would need to show evidence that I had been productive and made good use of my retreat and fretting about how I would do that. With this anxiety creeping in, instead of taking steps to plan my retreat days I shelved the idea and put them on my long term to do list.

 

 I began to overthink the idea and became daunted by it

In the meantime, Lisa (Learning Mentor for Passionate Spirituality) and I began drawing together plans to put on a Lay Leadership Retreat. We had both independently identified a need for some of our most committed lay leaders in churches, especially wardens, to be given space away from their responsibilities to encounter God and rest in Him. Our desire was to gather the tired and worn out and bless them. Our hope and prayer is that they will be refreshed and renewed by God’s love and grace and go back into their workplaces and ministries secure in His strength and provision.

So here I am, preparing and planning to provide a retreat for others; meditating on the passages about God being the source of our strength and the need to sink our roots down into him to sustain us through the droughts. I’m praying about what prayer stations to create to help people respond and engage. I’m thinking about how we can encourage those who might be hesitant about signing up to come and what might be stopping them and pondering how, as leaders, we can empower people to take retreats by leading by example and taking them ourselves. And into my head pops the thought of those three retreat days I’ve put off arranging. Hmm. I can’t ignore this.

 

Today, I’m taking the confusion of my excited and anxious feelings about retreat to God. I’ve read a few blogs on how to prepare for retreats and what different styles of retreat there are. I’ve wondered what sort of retreat I should do and what God might want to speak to me about. And I have gathered up my courage and taken steps to book a retreat day next month.

I’m taking the confusion of my excited and anxious feelings about retreat to God

I am still uncertain about it, and I’m not sure whether that feeling will go away as it is unknown territory I’m heading into. However, I am excited to create the space for prolonged time to seek God and to learn more of Him and I am looking forward to resting with the God who ‘restores my soul’.

If you, like me, are a little uncertain about doing a retreat; if you need a nudge to get something booked in, can I encourage you to go for it?

 

You can find information about the Lay Leadership Retreat our team is running on the Events page of this website. There are also a number of local retreat centres and quiet gardens you could explore, including Charlecote Quiet GardenHouse of BreadRed Hill Christian Centre and Launde Abbey.

Gifts without love are meaningless

Wedding season has begun in earnest, kicked off by the royal celebrations. As many of us look forward to celebrating with friends and family, I’m pondering one of the bible passages most commonly read in wedding ceremonies and how it applies to us as a church family.

It was only when I sat down with a friend to help her choose a bible reading for their upcoming nuptials and was asked to explain the context of 1 Corinthians 13 that I realised that the familiar passage on love was really meant for much more than marriage. Taken out of its place between chapter 12 and 14, we miss Paul’s point, conveniently narrowing down the passage to verses 4-8 so it makes for a more wedding appropriate reading.

But Paul wasn’t talking about a couple. In chapter 12 he has been instructing the Corinthian church about the use of Spiritual Gifts, and he continues to refer to the gifts throughout chapter 13 and into chapter 14. The chapter breaks that were added in the early 13th Century by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, can sometimes mean we lose the flow and connection between chapters, as I had done here.

So how does this passage about love fit into the teachings about Spiritual Gifts within the church?

Paul gives examples of dramatic displays of spiritual gifts, inspiring demonstrations which most of us could never imagine performing and would be seriously impressed to see (I mean have you honestly ever dreamed you would be able to move a mountain?). He then tells us that they are worth nothing, when they are done without love. They will not win hearts for the Kingdom, because without love, they are empty. This evidence of God’s power, these impressive acts will ring with insincerity when we are simultaneously envious and critical of each other, living lives that do not match our words. What kind of a witness to God is that?

impressive acts will ring with insincerity when we are living lives that do not match our words

Love is a fruit of the Spirit. These eternal qualities are developed in us by the Spirit as we grow in maturity in our faith. Paul is reminding us that we need to be striving to grow spiritual fruit through the development of our character, alongside the use of our spiritual gifts:

‘…serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ Galatians 5:13-14, 22-23

Spiritual gifts used without love do not reflect who God is, or have a kingdom impact

If we are seeking to use and serve with our spiritual gifts, but do not do so from a place of love, if love for the Lord and for our church family is not evident in our daily life, then our acts are missing the vital ingredient. Our attitude matters. Spiritual gifts used without love do not reflect who God is, or have a kingdom impact. ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:16) and the love we show each other is the evidence of our faith; as Jesus said: 

‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ John 13:35

We are called to use our gifts in love. We are called to glorify God and edify each other with love. And Paul gives us a detailed list of what this love looks like:

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I invite you to pause and dwell on this passage. Highlight the different attributes of love that you see. How many of us can look at this list, in the light of how we serve our church, and feel confident that we live up to this definition of love? How many of us strive to do so? Which elements do you struggle with?

There is usually some reason, some excuse we give as to why we have fallen short. But be honest with yourself because this is important; our character matters. Take some time now to ask the Lord to help you to grow in these areas over the coming weeks.

Influencing Culture

It is well known that children learn by imitating those around them. This is evidenced to best effect when they confidently say a word or phrase in company that you uttered in an unguarded moment and really regret! As we grow older, we continue to mimic those around us that we admire; whether it be trying to perfect the exact style of our favourite footballers kick, or fix our hair just like that actor. We copy behaviours too, particularly of those we admire; perhaps celebrities, teachers, friends, managers or parents. If we thought about it, all of us could admit to imitating others at times, modelling ourselves on someone we aspire to be like.

Have you ever considered that others might be modelling themselves on you?

If you hold a position of influence, whether as a parent, a leader or friend, chances are high that others are watching your behaviour and imitating it. Does that thought make you feel honoured, or are you squirming a little? Those of us in leadership positions need to be particularly aware that if we behave in a certain way, some of those following us will assume that we’re condoning that behaviour, that it is acceptable, and therefore okay for them to do as well.

If you hold a position of influence, chances are high that others are watching your behaviour and imitating it.

What behaviours might they see in you that you might wish them not to copy? Is there a pervading culture that has a negative effect on your group? Perhaps it is gossip, negativity, busyness or bickering. Now take a good, honest look at yourself and ask whether you have any part in perpetuating this. Maybe you don’t, but if you realise you do, now is the time to own that responsibility and begin to address it with the Lord’s help.

Sometimes, it might be necessary to openly share your error and seek forgiveness. By doing this you encourage others to follow your example of confession and humility and you can then begin the process of change as a group. Don’t let your pride get in the way of this. In Philippians 2, Paul points us to the example of Jesus’ humility, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” We are all broken people, and as leaders we need to climb down from the pedestals society places us on.

Be encouraged – this also presents a great opportunity, because people will also imitate your good habits! By modelling the behaviour you want to see, you have the potential to be a massive influence on the culture of the group you lead, whether in your community, family, work place or church.

By modelling the behaviour you want to see, you have the potential to be a massive influence on the culture of the group you lead

So what do you long to see change in your context? Would you love to see more kindness shown? Be more kind. Do you wish your group shared more openly about their struggles? Be willing to be vulnerable and open with them about yours. Do you wish your team grumbled less? Choose to find things to be thankful for in each situation you encounter and share these thoughts with your team. Do you have a team of worn out workers? Model rest and Sabbath for them, set boundaries for your own work or ministry and you will empower them to do the same. If you work yourself into the ground, many will feel the same is expected of them.

We need to be aware of how our character and behaviour influences others, and remember the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Can we confidently encourage those we lead to follow our example? We can only do this if we are continually spending time understanding and following the example of Christ, modelling our character on His.

So you know your spiritual gifts – what now?

In the early days of doing this role, I spent some time investigating the different ways available for people to discover their spiritual gifts. What I came across was a wealth of different questionnaires; some free, some expensive; some stand alone, some part of a course; some listing 19 gifts, others 30; but most looking exceedingly similar to each other. I confess to completing quite a few myself, being intrigued to discover whether they came out with the same results…which they generally did.

So many ways exist to explore what your spiritual gifts might be, but once you have filled in a form and identified some gifts, what then?

1 Peter 4:10 says ‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.’ 

So we’re called to use our gifts to serve others. But who? And How?

We often lack imagination when we think about how our gifts can be used. We look at the tasks that need doing in church and the gaps on the rota and try to fit ourselves into the spaces that exist. However, we have a God who is much more creative than that! What if He has a plan for you that looks different to what you expected? Let’s be brave and willing to explore with Him.

We often lack imagination when we think about how our gifts can be used

I suggest you start by thinking about the following questions:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What frustrates you?
  • What do you long to see change in your church or community?
  • What brings you joy?

The answers to these questions will begin to uncover some people and causes which God has put on your heart. Spend time reflecting on your answers and allow God to identify an area or group of people to whom he is calling you.

Next, consider what other abilities and life experience you have.

  • Name the things you’re good at.
  • What do you know a lot about?
  • What comes naturally to you?
  • What have you learned from experiences in your past (good or bad) that enables you to help others in a special way?

This will help you explore how you could use your gifts to serve the areas you identified and begin to address some of the changes you want to see.

When you are exploring these questions, it is helpful to involve others in the conversation who know you well and can support you as you move into your ministry. I encourage you to talk with your vicar, small group leader or a friend. Not only will they be able to pray with you and offer insight, they will often be in a position to open doors for you and create opportunities for you to develop.

If you want to find out more about discovering your Spiritual Gifts and exploring how you are called to use them to join in with God’s mission, you can get in touch with me here.

Immeasurably more…dreaming bigger dreams

Do you desire to be a hero, or a hero maker? I recently read ‘Hero Maker’ by Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird. The premise of the book caught my attention; that “behind every hero is a hero maker”. It made me wonder, am I seeking my own development and success, or am I seeking to invest in others who will themselves go on to be fruitful for God’s kingdom?

It wasn’t an entirely comfortable reflection. An inclination to independence can find me saying “I can do it myself” rather too often, but in order to do it myself, do I shrink my goals down to something more manageable? ‘Hero Maker’ encourages us to dream bigger dreams. It explores the idea that we have far more influence as leaders, and can realise much greater dreams, if we use our time to train up leaders who will train up other leaders and so on until our effect is multiplied many times.

Let’s take a simple example; you need to bake cakes for cake sale happening tomorrow. You’ve got 4 hours. The more cakes you can bake, the more money you can raise, so you put on your apron and get baking, one batch at a time, until you run out of energy, eggs, or time. You manage to bake 80 cakes – what a hero! The cake sale is a success and you think you will probably have recovered sufficiently from your efforts to do another one next year.

Do I shrink my goals down to something more manageable?

Now, consider what would happen if you spent your first hour teaching someone else to bake cakes. In the second hour, you can go off and work on something else while your new sous chef bakes and teaches another person. They each teach another so by the fourth hour, there are 4 of them baking and you have had three hours to crack on with the rest of your to-do list. You could potentially bake 160 cakes using this method – that’s nearly double the money raised with only an hour of your input. Your sous chefs will probably get the hero status instead of you, but the overall impact is bigger thanks to your wise investment of time. Plus, next time you want to run a cake sale, you will not need to be in the kitchen at all, as one of your newly empowered sous chefs will be in charge! You have become a hero maker.

by investing in others I have much more impact

So what stops us from doing this? It could be a feeling of not enough time to do the initial investment; let’s face it, teaching someone to make cakes will take longer than making them yourself. Maybe it’s that they might not make them the same way you would – the icing might not look quite as swirly as you hoped. Possibly you enjoy baking and you’d rather do it yourself (especially if the alternative tasks are less appealing!). Perhaps there is no one else to teach. Or maybe you never imagined baking more than 80 cakes.

Ephesians 3:20 reminds us we have a God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, through his power at work in us. How exciting this is! This makes me want to learn to dream bigger, God-sized dreams; to ask for more, to imagine more. I’m taking my own dreams for church, family and work and wondering what they look like supersized. I’m asking God ‘how on earth I can possibly achieve that?’ And he’s showing me, gently inspiring me, that through investing in others, I can have much more influence and impact than if I try to be the hero myself.

What do you dream for?

How might you achieve immeasurably more by investing in others?

What stops you?