Mike Bonem says that the simple solution to ministry leaders feeling overloaded and overwhelmed is to delegate more. Our most common excuses for failing to delegate don’t really stand up. The key is clarity around what tasks can and cannot be shared.
I lost count a long time ago of the number of coaching conversations in which I heard, “I’m completely overloaded!” I know that ministry leadership, whether in a church or denomination or some other setting, is incredibly demanding. Part of what makes it so demanding is that no matter how many hours a leader works, there is always more that can be done. You can visit another person (whether it’s someone in the hospital, a potential member, or a key donor). You can spend more time developing the vision. You can invest more in staff.
While recognizing that you can always do more, I want to challenge the notion that ministry leaders will always be overloaded and overwhelmed. One of the key practices for breaking out of this pattern is to delegate more. It sounds simple, but I already know the objections. The three most common are:
- “I don’t have someone to delegate to.” If this is true, then you’re not a leader. The someone doesn’t have a to be a paid staff person — you can delegate to volunteers. But leaders should always have someone who can help shoulder the load that they are carrying.
- “They won’t do it as well as me.” That may be true but get over it. If you let your perfectionist or control tendencies keep you from delegating, you will become a bottleneck that stifles organizational growth and creativity.
- “I don’t want to ‘dump’ these tasks on others. They’re busy as well.” That is a noble sentiment, but they may also need to become better delegators. Besides, your refusal to delegate will keep you from playing the important role that only you can fill.
The last point is important. The most effective leaders can clearly articulate what lies at the intersection of their strengths and passions and the key needs of their church or ministry. When this is clear, you know what tasks cannot be delegated. If you know that, you can begin to define other tasks that can be handed off to someone else. (If it isn’t clear, then read my blog on “clarifying your priorities.”)
One of the unhealthy dynamics of current American leadership is that we celebrate the individuals who constantly burn the candle at both ends. Of course, a candle burning at both ends just burns out twice as fast. That should be a warning sign for the leader who is reluctant to delegate more.
This article is reprinted from an October 8, 2019 blog post, “Delegate More” at mikebonem.com. Used by permission.
- Leading Like Moses: 4 Ways to Know What to Delegate by Micah Fries and Jeremy Maxfield
- 4 Practices to Help Prevent Clergy Burnout by Matt Bloom and Kim Bloom
- 3 Deresolutions to Start the New Year by Mike Bonem