Sharing the Journey…

“Sometimes, even though you may be the most skilled person at completing a task, it does not mean you should be the one to do it”.

Nine years after a mentor shared theses words with me, they still serve as the most powerful ministry lesson I have ever received.  When he spoke them I was working for a grassroots urban youth ministry that was understaffed and overworked (aren’t we all?).  We all had way too much on our plates, and the concept of delegation seemed as real to us all as winning the lottery…it just could not happen.  As I whined and moaned about our lack of staff and volunteers he called me out on what the issue truly was.  There were other people I could delegate to.  I just did not believe that anyone could do the job as well as I could.  As we continued to talk, he brought me to the realization that in order for me to be more effective in my primary responsibilities, I had to be willing to let someone else do work that I was more qualified to complete.  Sometimes, in order to accomplish our goals, I had to subdue my control freak and share the work. No, the task may take the other person more time to get it right, but it would get done.

I recognize that lack of help is one of the three problems we all face in youth ministry (behind lack of money and finding really good games that involve duct tape and Ovaltine). However, I think if you truly think about it, you have people who are willing to jump in and help.  Maybe instead of crowd control and consuming inedible foods they could help carry more of the load.

Now I get it. This youth group is your baby.  God has given you a calling and vision for these kids and this program. It has to be done right. However,  hasn’t He also called your volunteers to the same things? And if that’s the case, shouldn’t you give them something significant to do?

But where do you start? How can you be sure that they are ready to take over the things that you “are most qualified to do”?  It really is simple.  I have found it comes down to three steps:

  1. Communicate clearly. Tell them what needs to be done, and your expectations for how it should be done. It is okay to have expectations of your volunteers, so they can do it well.  If you have ever sent your children up to clean there rooms without explaining what that means, you know what I am talking about – everything just gets stuffed in the closet or under the bed.  Let them know what the job looks like when it is done.
  2. Do it with them the first time or two so they can see it done correctly. Before you were good at the task, you probably had someone walk you through how to do it at least once.  Don’t ever give someone a job and just push them out the door to do it.  Take the extra time to guide them.  A little time up front will save you a lot of time down the road.
  3. Hold them accountable.  I realize that this seems like a taboo idea when it comes to volunteers, but if people aren’t held accountable to deadlines and outcomes, then they either won’t get done or they won’t get done correctly.  If a person has bought into your vision, and you approach them with gentleness, they will not mind being held accountable for their work.

Once you have done this, sit back and trust them. Will they do it as well as you?  Maybe…maybe not.  But you are now freed up to do the more important tasks in your day, and your volunteer feels empowered and trusted.

Are you holding onto tasks you could get rid of? Who could you delegate them to? Take some time to answer these questions. I promise it will be worth your time.

  • Phil Bell

    John, I can’t agree more. So often it’s easy to miss out point #2. Even when we take a lot of time to communicate it’s not always as clear as we think. It’s so important to walk someone through a process rather than dump them in the deep-end. Although this takes longer, it is worth it in the end. Thanks for sharing your leadership wisdom with us!

    Phil <

  • John Fix

    Yeah, unfortunately I have drowned a few volunteers and staff members in my time. Training is a far better option than CPR.