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I admit it – I don’t delegate responsibilities as much as I should. In my attempts to do better, though, I’ve tried to learn from others who share the same struggle. Based on my own experiences and these informal interviews, here are twelve reasons for church leaders not delegating.

  1. We base our worth on results. If our organization does well, we look better; if not so well, the failure hits at the core of our being. When we base our value on the success of the organization we lead, seldom do we delegate responsibility to others. It’s simply too risky to do so.
  2. We don’t really believe the Body of Christ imagery in 1 Corinthians 12. If God puts the Body together as He wishes, He knows which person should play each role. We deny that truth when we choose to play the role of every part of the Body – either by doing it all ourselves or by following to “clean up” what others have done.
  3. We have never seen good delegation modeled. We struggle because no one ever delegated anything to us as we sought to learn ministry. No leader trained us, trusted us, and held us accountable. Instead, our own role models did the work themselves, and we’ve followed faithfully in their steps.
  4. We suffer from “idolatry of the self.” What else can we call it if we believe (1) no one can do it better than we can, and thus (2) no one else should do it? We may explain it as our simply “sacrificing all for God’s glory,” but it’s really nothing more than self-idolatry.
  5. We don’t have time or energy to train others. Training is time-consuming. It’s messy. It’s risky. Rather than take that chance, it’s just easier to do it all ourselves and cloak our efforts under “the urgency of the gospel.”
  6. We like control. Let’s face it: with every person we train and release, we move one step away from controlling everything under our watch. Anything out of our control creates stress and anxiety, so it’s better on us not to delegate.
  7. We have had bad experience with delegation. We’ve tried delegation, but our past stories are defeating. We spent so much time cleaning up messes that it’s just easier to avoid the mess in the first place.
  8. We have no system in place to help believers determine their giftedness. Because few churches have a clear strategy to help believers recognize how God might use them, we have no clearinghouse to help us trust delegating to others. How can we delegate to people whose lives we don’t know?
  9. Our churches don’t always see the need. “After all,” they say, “that’s why we hire staff.” The congregation that thinks that way may see delegation as shirking responsibility or indicating laziness. The church leader with little patience to change this mindset will likely succumb to the congregation’s wishes not to delegate – or leave.
  10. We fear others will do better (and perhaps get the glory). No one wants to admit this possibility, but some of us wrestle with this thinking. If others do better than we do, it seems we diminish our own role and responsibility. Few people really want to delegate themselves out of a job.
  11. We do not see the vast needs of the world. It’s easy to hold on to everything when the full scope of our ministry is only our church and perhaps our community. Multiply those needs by the 2 billion people in the world who have little exposure to the gospel, however, and the need to delegate becomes obvious. Unless we multiply ourselves by training and delegation, we will not make a dent in that darkness.
  12. We don’t pray enough for laborers. Jesus – our Lord, who Himself delegated the work of the kingdom to a bunch of nobodies – taught us to pray for more laborers even as we work in the fields (Luke 10:1-2). If we truly prayed like Jesus taught us, we would need to be prepared and willing to share the workload with others.

What other causes for failing to delegate do you see?


 



Dr. Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Lawless is also president of the Lawless Group, a church consulting firm. He and his wife, Pam, have been married for more than 20 years, and they live in Wake Forest, NC. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on Facebook.com/CLawless.

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