Church leaders: What to do when what you’re doing isn’t good
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
"The thing that you do is not good." Ouch. That's what Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, said to him after seeing him serving God's people all day (Exodus 18:17). How is that not good?
Moses stated, "I make known the statutes of God and His laws." That seems like a noble, Godly, worthwhile effort, right? Well, apparently his father-in-law had a different take on things (and I doubt this was comparable to a holiday season spat with your in-laws).
Jethro wasn't saying the people didn't need direction or that no one should serve as judge and rule over disputes. He was pointing out that Moses was human. I don't care how amazing his diet was, what his workout regimen looked like, or how much sleep he got each night. There was no way Moses could maintain such a demanding schedule for any significant period of time.
If you've done anything remotely resembling counseling or tried to broker a peace deal with your kids, you know how draining it is to handle even a few such instances per day. Moses had way too much on his plate, and Jethro called him out on it.
Thankfully, my parents didn't name me Jethro (it's not exactly a feminine name). However, if you're constantly exhausted, stressed and feeling like you have zero breathing room ... well, I'm "pulling a Jethro" and calling you out.
For the sake of your relationships, your church and yourself, please stop. I realize most churches could use more staff and volunteers. There aren't always enough co-laborers. You see people who need help and more work to be done, so you keep going. That can work for a while, but you will eventually wear out.
There are no easy answers here, but I have a few tips to help you get started:
Tip 1: Share the need
If no one knows you're overloaded, they'll assume you're fine. It's your responsibility to say you need help. Share with your pastor, elders, congregation or whoever is appropriate that there's more work to be done than you can reasonably complete on your own.
Tip 2: Stop doing stuff
Write down all the tasks or projects you're working on within the next 6-8 weeks. Next, number them in order of importance (and there can only be one of each number — no cheating with three No. 1s).
How far down the list can you go and still have a reasonable schedule? For which items are you truly the only person who can accomplish them?
Stop doing anything that doesn't fit into those categories. Several items may still need to be done, however, those are perfect candidates for delegation.
Tip 3: Develop leaders and delegate
I can already hear the objections:
- I'm a volunteer, to whom am I supposed to delegate?
- My staff is already working overtime, how can I ask them to do anything more?
- If I'm already overbooked, when am I going to find time to develop anyone else?
Those are valid concerns, so here's what I recommend:
- Volunteers should talk with someone on staff for help figuring out who can take over a few of your tasks. Also, consider whether there are other volunteers who could take on more responsibility or if there's someone who isn't already serving who could help.
- Pastors have a few options: hire more staff, recruit more volunteers or decide what isn't going to get done (at least not right now).
- Leaders should go back to Tip 2 and fit "develop leaders" into their list, even if it bumps off something else. You won't grow a sustainable ministry without developing the next generation of leaders. It's too important to not invest in now.
Jethro didn't mince words with Moses. He recognized the need for Moses' efforts, but he knew Moses wouldn't last long with that workload. Thankfully, Moses heeded his father-in-law's advice, and he was able to stay in leadership over the long haul.
Building a ministry that's sustainable and will leave a legacy requires many hands to the plow. Don't be afraid of delegating and don't think it's a sign you're not up to the job. You're human — so was Moses, and I think it's safe to say he managed to accomplish a few things.
Take a deep breath, pray for wisdom and then start with Tip 1.
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