Another tool often overlooked is adequate time. Once a pastor delegated the planning and executing of a small-group event and gave me five days to complete it. There's no way around it—that was simply not enough time. When delegating, we must assess the time needed for the task. Ordering pizzas probably needs a few days' notice. Putting together a ministry event probably needs more than that. Preparing notes for a meeting may need a few days, while preparing a training talk needs a few weeks. Set up people for success by providing the amount of time that allows them to do the job well.
4. Transfer responsibility and authority. Years ago, I offered to help with an event at our church. I was given the task of decorating the room we'd be using. The woman leading the event told me to come up with an idea and "run with it." I was excited, and I started scanning the craft stores for deals. After I bought the supplies, I put together a few of the decorations and brought them to our next meeting. With a week left before the event, I was excited to unveil the decorations to the rest of the team. But the woman leading the event disapproved and told me to change the decorations. I was stunned. I'd already spent money on the supplies, and with only a week left, I knew I didn't have time to start over. She'd given me the task, but she hadn't given me the authority to do what needed to be done—make a decision on the decorations.
We do this so often in the church. We ask people to lead a small group, but then we don't allow them to make decisions about how to best disciple their group members. Or we ask someone to handle our administrative tasks but don't give them a church e-mail address to respond on our behalf. We let a coach choose the curriculum they use to develop leaders, and then critique it every step of the way. When we delegate, we give our support. We give our authority to them so they can complete the task. We stand by their decisions.
Once you've delegated a task, let the person have the authority to do what needs to be done. Then debrief afterward. If it didn't go as you'd hoped, talk through it. Here's the truth: when delegation goes wrong, it's usually on the delegating side. We haven't been clear about our expectations or provided what was needed. Rather than point fingers, celebrate what did go well, own your mistakes, and come up with a solution to make it better together.
As a ministry point person, it's easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount you need to do, but there's no need to do it alone. In fact, I'd say you should intentionally share the load. Delegating will lighten your load definitely, but more importantly, it's a matter of discipleship. Delegating tasks empowers capable and talented leaders in your ministry to develop their skills and serve and meaningful ways. Do the work of delegating effectively and your ministry—and the people within it—will be stronger.
—Amy Jackson is managing editor of SmallGroups.com.