Let’s talk a little about the “D” word. It’s a word that is thrown around either as a discussion or what should have been done, or some pie in the sky thing of what ought to happen.
You see it discussed like some sort of holy grail at leadership conferences. You see it lifted up as a single point of failure for leaders who don’t quite get it.
I’ve succeeded at it. I’ve failed royally too.
It is straight Biblical. It is also the source of some of the worst Christian ministry on the planet.
So, what does delegation have to do with worship? This is a worship blog.
First of all, I would like to make sure we recognize that worship is a much bigger, broader idea than just what happens when we focus in on music. My degree is in worship studies and it mostly has to do with music. But there are still topics that go beyond the downbeat and final note that are vital to the health of worship ministry.
Worship is beyond even the entire Sunday service and all of its complexity or simplicity. If we could get beyond this one enormous reality, the chasms of separation between denominations would shrink.
In Romans 12, we see the basis for my argument. Worship is the living sacrifice of a life lived unto God. It is a mind that is changed and a life that is transformed. I wrote a little more on the analysis of that thought process here.
A life lived, therefore, in dedication to that living sacrifice is then qualified as an acceptable act of worship.
More on that in a second.
I just want to be clear that the life of sacrifice lived as worship is one that serves God and serves people. And often the former is rolled into a hearty portion of the latter. We see James calling on pure and undefiled religion as ministry to orphans and widows. We see Jesus wash His disciples’ feet and then tell them they will do the same in their progress toward Kingdom greatness. Jesus says that as we serve the least and the lowest, we serve Him.
And that is worship.
“Acceptable,” by the way is the same word that Paul uses a few chapters later when he urges people to accept one another. It means to receive people regardless of how flawed we are. It means that God will extend to you a loving reception of your imperfect work as the fulfillment of the purpose of your life.
And maybe you should do the same to other people.
Regardless of their status of imperfection.
Next, delegation is how we can make the music portion of a worship service rock without making rock stars out of our worship leaders. And I mean that in the pejorative sense of the word “rock star.” Rock stars in music ministry receive the glory for the work of their team. They share the affection of their congregation with God. They occasionally even allow God to be central to the theme of their worship, especially when they are out of town and don’t want another member of the team to accidentally become a rock star.
John Crist has parodied the rock star worship leader pretty well here.
In the real world, though, there are very few worship leaders who are capable of excellent execution of every station of the music ministry. There are a few and they command large purses from huge congregations. They have massive headaches and are in danger of falling into the trap of false delegation to the detriment of their whole church.
False delegation is done by people who mistrust the process of improvement by people who require time, patience, practice, and feedback. These people possess insecurity about the potential of their methodology to be used by more people. They also have little faith in other methodologies where other people will excel where they themselves fail. While possessed of a hearty portion of self-assurance, they lack the motivation or ability to extend that assurance beyond themselves.
One of the most toxic products of false delegation is the insulation of a leader. Insulated leaders create for themselves a bubble where they have absolute authority to exact their will, but a distributed share of responsibility. The result of that is that they make whatever decisions they want and if their decisions fail, there are legions of underlings to throw under the bus.
Insulated leaders become stuck in their own positive feedback loop, only able to hear positive input and sheltering themselves from people who will criticize their choices. If someone wants to give feedback to an insulated leader, they are told who is actually in charge of receiving the criticism and given a grave explanation about processes and authority structures.
The underling receiving the feedback will do his job and then have no way of transmitting the feedback to the leader. He doesn’t want to hear it and will absolutely shoot the messenger.
They do not find themselves able to keep a team because the subordinates of an insulated leader have all of the responsibility and no authority. They are simply playing vocational roulette, waiting for the ball to fall on their number, signifying their personal failure at the hands of another person’s ideas.
Do not insulate your leaders.
Delegation in ministry can also be called discipleship. It is the process by which we understand that we must multiply our work. Worship ministry is, by necessity, multiplicative. We want to empower as many people as possible to be excellent worshipers so as to actually work ourselves out of a job.
To delegate, you must do a couple of things:
- See the Calling. It is easy to see calling in someone’s life. It usually shows up as passion, selflessness, and availability. It takes a lot to put yourself out there far enough to say “I want to do this thing.”
- Determine the Strengths. Figure out what the person who has volunteered their time and service excels at doing. They will usually tell you. But there are sometimes even more compelling strengths hiding beneath the surface. It takes time and life investment. Really look into who the person is. If you are desperately unperceptive, you better get a buddy whose discernment is strong. It may be the first delegation you need to do.
- Communicate the Vision. Let the person know where this entire effort is going. It gives them a goal. Targeted work is much stronger and more potent. It is more concise.
- Train Them. Once they know where to send their good stuff, figure out what needs to be stronger. 2018 is an amazing time to be a leader. There are more online resources available for free or nominal subscription fees than you can shake a stick at. I don’t know why we shake sticks at things that are plentiful.
- Stop that.
- Anyway, if they need help in something you don’t know how to do, resource them. But always, in the course of training, give them feedback on their progress.
- Commission Them. Once they know how to do their work and they know what work to do, then give them the official authority to do their work in your area of responsibility. If you need to conduct a ceremony to do this honestly, then figure it out. This person needs to carry the authority that has been given to you to be placed upon them. You are, after all, about to give them responsibility. They need the autonomy to make decisions differently than you would make. They need permission to be their own human. Given that they understand their parameters and vision, they will, by practice and progress, proceed toward perfection.
- Set them Lose. That’s right. Take the chain off of that eager bloodhound of righteousness and let them charge out into the wide world of Christian ministry work.
- Give them Feedback. Once they are commissioned and released into ministry, your work is now to look at results and processes and encourage their work toward excellence and growth. There is always something to praise. Their strengths will usually be central to that. Wherever they are weak can always be improved by encouraging their work toward their strengths. Other good feedback is public uplifting of their work. This takes the focus off of you, helps you prevent rock star syndrome from setting in too hard, and inspires other people in the congregation that they can serve too. It removes the exclusive opportunity for greatness in Christian ministry from the hallowed offices of the clergy. It places the empowerment of ministry in the hands of the people.
Do not be fooled by imitation delegation. It is easy enough to mimic the language of people who have commissioned a swath of servant leaders in pursuit of the mission God has lain in their hearts. True and undefiled leadership is this: to seek to put the work of ministry into as many hands as possible. That work should include the individuality that accompanies the diversity of humanity that serves. That work should also include authority to make decisions. They need to be able to fail without having the wheel taken back from them.
Such teams succeed on a greater scale than other teams that protect their people from failure.
Such teams are peopled by powerful men and women who glorify God and point to His glory, rather than our own.