Ministry Lessons From the Military: Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

It’s really easy to do something yourself. Well, maybe it’s not, but sometimes it seems easier than letting someone else do it. I find myself running into this problem with my own kids sometimes. The dishes need done. I need help with yard work. The front porch needs painted. All tasks that take significant work and time from our days. Could we use the help? Absolutely!

As our kids get to an age where they can start helping with these types of responsibilities, we as parents should be thrilled. Too often, we’re not. Letting the kids do it, especially early on, means that they’ll probably mess it up. I may have to go back and clean up the mess they did trying to get it done. I may have to take extra time to teach them… over and over. Sometimes it just feels easier to do it myself. Sometimes we feel this way about working with other adults.

Giving Up

Delegating can also be hard, because it means that I have to give up control. We all feel the need to have control over something. Even people who don’t want to be in charge or be the leader. They need to have control over their personal budgets, schedules, and lives. Most of us find a sense of safety and security in being in control. When we delegate responsibilities, we loose control. Sometimes our sense of security goes with it. Trust is required, and a lot of the time we just don’t trust others.

There are many lessons on leadership that I learned in the military. We already saw how “Many hands make lite work.” That applies to teamwork, but it can also apply to delegating. I also learned that working harder doesn’t always equal more productivity. In other words, “Work smarter, not harder.” One way you work smarter is, “Don’t do what others could do.”

Delegate

“Don’t do what others could do,” is a huge lesson for any of us to learn. None of us are alone. We all work with other people whether in an organized team or not. We waste time doing things that others could be doing.

When you’re in leadership with others on your team, you need to assess what you spend your time on. Usually there are others on your team who can do some of your regular duties. It’s even possible that they could do those things better than you. Good leaders aren’t threatened by talented and driven individuals. They cultivate them and guide them to success. Delegating to these individuals benefits everyone.

Good leaders aren't threatened by talented and driven individuals. They cultivate them and guide them to success. Click To Tweet

This isn’t new advice or something you can only find in the military. We see this early on in the Bible. Moses is given the same advice.

Moses

At the end of Exodus 17 we see Israel defeat the Amalekites in battle. Leading up to this Moses sees first hand some of the biggest problems with leading. It feels like they just left Egypt and there’s already groaning about their situation and about Moses as a leader. They find themselves in a great battle at Rephidim.

Moses goes to a hilltop and stretches his hands up while Joshua leads the troops in battle. As long as his hands are up the Israelites are winning. When his arms get tired and start to drop, the Israelites begin to lose. Aaron and Hur see this happening so they go to Moses and help lift his arms up. This is the support that Moses needs and honestly, the kind of support that every leader and pastor needs.

The Advice

After the battle Moses meets with his father in law who gives him some advice.

“What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone… select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens… That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” – Exodus 18 NIV

Moses had leaders in his life who taught him important lessons. One was to delegate. The scene that we see right before this is a perfect example for us. On his own, Moses’ arms grew too tired to be of any help to the very people he was supposed to be leading. With capable people at his side sharing the burden, they were able to succeed. Fortunately Moses listened to this wise advice.

“Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” Exodus 18:24-25 NIV

In Ministry

Delegating isn’t easy. It may even feel impossible at times. First, we need to make sure that we build a culture of delegation. In the military individuals know where they fall in the command structure. They know who’s orders to follow and who to ignore. Some expectations are almost automatic based on job, rank, and position. Other expectations will be given specifically. This structure and culture is assumed. This culture helps the mission and it helps everyone become better.

I’m not suggesting we run our churches like the military. I am suggesting that we can create a culture where it’s assumed that everyone on your team will be given responsibilities based on their position and ability. There shouldn’t be a question of if you’ll delegate responsibility. That should be expected.

Once that happens, you can spread responsibility out efficiently and effectively without feeling guilty about it or shocking those on your team. Most importantly, everyone will benefit from this and the church will be more effective at it’s mission.

 

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