Small Church Ministry
Delegating Tasks In the Small Church: Two Options and Six Lessons
When there's little help available, we can either do fewer activities or train more disciples. Here are six ways I learned to do both.

“Delegate, pastor. Delegate.”

I’ve heard that wise advice hundreds of times. Literally hundreds.

During the first few years pastoring my current church, one of my deacons, named Ron Cook, said it to me constantly. Whenever he caught me doing something like stacking chairs by myself he’d walk by me, usually while lending a helping hand himself, and drop that little gem into my ear.

“Delegate, pastor. Delegate.”

Why Delegating Is So Hard – And Necessary

When I came to my current church I was a hurting pastor at a hurting church. The combination of those hurts led to two realities:

  • There were very few people to delegate anything to
  • Most of my motivation came from my own feelings of guilt

When those combined, it led me to do too much of the ministry work myself – and see myself as martyr while I did it.

But slowly, Ron’s words started taking hold. I stopped offering excuses and started following his advice.

Eventually, I discovered that there are two options when it comes to reaching a balanced delegation of tasks in a small church:

Option 1) Do fewer activities
Option 2) Do better discipleship training

I highly recommend doing both.

Here are six delegation lessons I learned the hard way. The first three are about doing fewer activities, the last three are about doing better discipleship.

1. Leave Guilt at the Door

Too many small church pastors operate out of guilt. We swim in a sea of self-imposed fault-finding, then we dump the overflow on others. Since guilt motivates us to work hard, we assume it will work on others.

Guilt doesn’t motivate volunteers. It paralyzes and discourages them.

Guilt never works. Not for pastors or their congregations. I know. I’ve tried.

Guilt doesn’t motivate volunteers. It paralyzes and discourages them.

Motivation by guilt leads to burnt-out pastors and unhealthy churches.

2. Adapt Your Methods To Suit Your Size

Too many churches of 50 are trying to do all the activities of a church of 500. This causes a lot of extra and unnecessary work. It’s not healthy to operate a small church under a template more suited to a larger church.

When we adapt our methods to suit our size, we discover that a lot of things we thought were essential aren’t so essential any more. For instance, when 20 or fewer people show up for a meeting, there's no need to line them up in rows, speak through a microphone, have a band lead in worship or offer multiple levels of age-appropriate child care. Maybe the best way to do church at that size is to form the chairs in a circle. Talk, pray and sing together. Do some Q & A. Make it more about dialog than monolog.

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August 31, 2015 at 2:46 AM

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