“Work smart, not hard.” That’s what I was regularly told by one of my teachers in high school. He meant that we didn’t have time to work  as hard as we could all the time, because if we did that, we wouldn’t get everything done. In order to accomplish all that we needed to, we had to focus our time and energy on the things that really needed it.  This served as a good guideline for me, especially in helping with time management and productivity.

I find myself saying the same thing as I’m thinking about working in the church. I can spend an exorbitant amount of time on a program, event, or relationship, but is all that hard work really the best use of my time? I can handle every detail of a retreat, budget or ministry, but that will likely mean that I then have less time to use with something else that might actually be more important. Oftentimes when I find that I have too much on my plate, not enough time to finish it all and a to-do list that seems unreasonable, it’s because I am taking on every part of a project. The word “delegation” is in the vocabulary of so many church workers, but is only talked about in theory instead of an actuality. This post is me trying to convince myself again to apply the theory that I know is true regarding delegating tasks, and hopefully in the process may impact and inspire you as well.

Here’s the one truth about delegation in the ministry that reminds me of its importance: delegation is a key to discipleship. The commission of the Church is to go “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19), so everything we do in ministry needs to be framed around that goal. When almost everything is handled by the professional church workers, then the rest of the body of believers are left with very few ways to use their gifts for the building up of the Church. The truth of the matter is that my lack of willingness to delegate is not just messing up my work schedule at times, it is actually hindering my goal of making disciples in the church. This realistic and serious diagnosis should be a catalyst for change for me, just like a doctor’s news of dangerous heart problems due to inactivity should motivate a patient towards a healthier lifestyle. Delegation offers us an opportunity not just to help us be more efficient with our time, but more importantly, it serves to help others become active as disciples using their various gifts in service to their Lord.

Delegation is not merely beneficial for having a strong discipleship focus, I would argue that it is essential. Here’s why: it is so easy for us as Christians to delegate our discipleship and that of our family to the “professionals.” So we have parents that think their job is done simply by sending their child to youth group, having them confirmed or being at Sunday School sometimes, with little to no involvement on their part. Our natural tendency is to take the words of Deuteronomy 6 about teaching God’s Word “diligently to your children” (verse 6) and to outsource it to someone else. If we as that “someone else” accept this trade and assume the Biblical role of head of the household as the primary spiritual leader for these young people, we are doing those families a disservice. What delegating different roles and tasks in the ministry allows us to do is to give some of that responsibility back to those whom God has originally designed it for, while providing support and encouragement along the way.

But won’t we get a lot of push-back from families for putting even more things on their already too full plates? Initially, yes. However, just because something is initially inconvenient doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile. Somehow we’ve bought into this idea that anytime we ask someone to do something, serve or be involved in the church we are putting a burden on them. This is why we can’t seem to find volunteers, because we’re only finding people who don’t seem to mind being inconvenienced rather than looking for people to become active as disciples. Families want to delegate the job of discipleship to us as youth leaders, but when we delegate some of those tasks back to them, we are actually doing them a favor. It’s up to us to convey to them why this model is better in the long-run.

What does this delegating discipleship look like? It looks like having family-based confirmation that is centered in the homes rather than at the church. It looks like teaching parents how to lead regular family devotions in their homes and giving them the tools and resources to do so. It’s having youth lead some of the devotions and Bible studies for various youth group programming instead of them all being church staff led. It’s having opportunities for youth and parent leadership in organizing and planning events. It looks like any number of other ways to activate youth and parents as disciples using their gifts in service to their family, congregation and neighbors. This delegating discipleship doesn’t mean less work for us church workers, but it does mean that we’re working smarter because our work is doing ministry with others rather than just to them.

The summary question to ask is, “What am I doing now on my own that I could partner with a youth or parent on?” It could be organizing an event, keeping the budget, recruiting volunteers, preparing a Bible study, contacting new or inactive youth, preparing a promotional video or poster, making congregational announcements, or any number of different tasks. All of these are opportunities to build up the body of Christ, make disciples, and activate others in using their gifts. What great opportunities God has given us, and what an even greater Savior He has given us that continues to make disciples through His Word and Sacraments even when our delegating skills are lacking.