It’s Not My Job

I’m an awful delegator.  It’s one of the most glaring examples of the disconnect between my personal philosophy and practice.  I truly believe that God has blessed everyone with unique gifts that are intended to be used in service to others.  I’m also a huge critic of the “Pied Piper” syndrome that plagues many in my profession.  It is foolish to build a program around the gifts of one person (the youth minister) for two reasons.  

  1. It implies that the youth minister’s gifts are the most special out of anyone elses
  2. The program can only function with the presence of the youth minister

It’s the second one that really frightens me because I know that I’m not going to be at my church forever.  I have no plans to leave any time soon, but nobody is at the same church forever.  My fear is that my inability to empower people to use their gifts in ministry could cause irreparable damage to the congregation when the day comes that I leave.  This is not an ego thing…it’s just reality.  When the work of youth ministry funnels through one person it creates an unhealthy dependence on that person.

So I’ve decided to try to change the way I function in this area.  In many ways, the structure already exists.  We have small group leaders in place for junior & senior high…mentors for young confirmation students…teachers and shepherds for Sunday School…parents who help serve the midweek meal.  However, each of these areas are not being supported as much as they need to because I insist on taking charge of other things that, frankly, aren’t my job.

This is really difficult for me to say.  My heredity has given me a fair share of Lutheran / Norsk / German guilt, as well as a stubborn inability to ask for help.  I’m going to have to work to get over these tendencies.  I have to remind myself that, in some ways, it actually requires MORE work on my end to educate and empower people to do tasks that “I can just do by myself”.  The challenge will be applying the necessary discipline to avoid falling into the old familiar way of doing things.

The first three ways I’m hoping to employ this tactic are the Youth Auction fundraiser, Sunday School Christmas Program, and the Wednesday night meal.  The Auction Team is already in the early stages of being assembled.  The Christmas Program is, so far, spread around among 6 adults.  The Wednesday night meal is a borderline disaster…one that will require a lot of work to make it happen.

If any of you are, like my friend Angie at Faith Lutheran, Master Delegators – please clue me (and others) in on how you share the responsibility for ministry while remaining guilt-free.

Oh shoot!  It’s 12:09 am…I need to publish this sucker before Brandon Barker kicks me out of the Blogoff!


6 Responses to It’s Not My Job

  1. Erin says:

    Erik – I’m really resonating with what you say here. I have had the same problem in ministry positions. In my last position (which was also my first), almost everything I did was dependent on me. I’d like to say that I learned my lesson, but it’s definitely something that I’m still struggling with on a fairly regular basis. The disconnect between philosophy and practice is a constant reminder (especially as I’m going through seminary) that my ministry is not about me!

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. It is your calling. Pastors (and I think this would include other church staff as well) are to “equip the saints to do the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11, ESV).

    If you are doing it all how are you equipping the saints and thus building up the body?

    Also Dale Burke in his book, Less is More Leadership, has a saying that I’ve taped above my desk. “God is omni-everything. I am omni-nothing.”

  3. Kara says:

    I think the problem comes with constantly having to rely on volunteers who…many times…back out last minute. Unless you know you have people you can absolutly rely on….it’s hard to give all the power to someone else, especially a volunteer, b/c if they don’t follow through then it’s left on you to fix last minute. That happens a few times and you begin to take the mentality that it’s just easier for “me” to do it.

    Although….maybe part of empowering and educating is finding a way to make people really take ownership in something so that they feel a pride and responsibility. Maybe then they are less likely to crap out.

  4. […] Erik Ullstead shares the woes of being a bad delegator. […]

  5. Erin says:

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’ll be able to get to the Extravaganza this year – I’m finding that in order to get my full time course load in for seminary while working at the church part time it means taking some weekend classes (and also a lot of work!). Maybe next year…

  6. Journeyman says:

    I am resonating with those in the church that are called to offer their talents and gifts, which I volunteer as I can. Many times I hear of so many things going on in the church, but I still feel out of the loop. If I have offered my talents and gifts to worship in the past, there is no follow-up or invitations for upcoming worship plans. I show up at church and see a really nice worship program put together to which I would have gladly offered to contribute my talents. Same goes for the youth involvement. I like to be involved in their activities whenever I can, but sometimes when I do, I feel awkward, like nobody wants me there. It leaves me very discouraged sometimes to reach out and try to help. Just like Kara said, maybe that’s why some of us don’t follow through with our commitments. Some of us don’t want to be “empowered”. Some of us are happy to be occasional guest helpers when help is needed. Sometimes there’s too much planning going on with regard to certain activities. Sometimes you need to just provide the setting and the participants, and a basic activity outline, and then let God take over to move the group to understanding their purpose to each other through God’s infinite love and grace.

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