Delegation

Delegation is far more complicated than people realize.  It is often painted as the easy solution to accomplishing more and building teamwork.  But this is a very incomplete picture.

Delegation almost never removes burdens from the project leader.  Delegation often results in more time lost in instruction and oversight than doing it yourself.  And this only takes place after you have already spent time searching for the right person to delegate to. Even then you may well start over more than once after realizing you have the wrong person.

Delegation requires some degree of oversight, but too much and too little both create different problems. The two areas of problem—too much oversight and too little oversight—may overlap meaning there is no workable amount of oversight, indicating you delegated to the wrong person,.

Too much oversight means that the person who is doing the work feels oppressed, untrusted, and superfluous.  Too little oversight means that they will feel unprepared, worthless, and overburdened. A project leader may want to ignore feelings in favor of accomplishing task, but this also works contrary to God’s purposes for leadership.

Delegating a task often results in it being done differently or incompletely, so that it doesn’t accomplish its portion of the bigger project. If that part of the project is not something that can be repaired last minute, then the entire project may be compromised.

Delegating multiplies the points of necessary communication and therefore amplifies any and all communication problems.  These problems will frustrate and test the delegator more than it tests the delegatees. The delegatees will also judge the project leader to be at fault even if they themselves simply were not listening. In these ways, miscommunications will bruise the entire organization.

But don’t think that I am saying you should not delegate.  Instead I am stating that delegation should not be painted as an easy solution.  Here are some reasons you should delegate.

Delegation will eventually increase the capability of a group.  Just don’t expect this to happen too quickly.

Delegation is the primary way in which you build leaders, it is a form of mentoring. Taking people from participants, to workers, to leaders, is an important part of growing a church.

Delegation spreads out capability and therefore stabilizes a group.  If only one person knows how to do something, what happens when that person moves on?  Having others who understand the tasks being performed means the work doesn’t grind to a halt when change occurs.

Delegation improves communication.  But like weightlifting the gains are only made if you can tolerate some soreness along the way.

When delegation is working right it will create strong teams.  When delegation is working right it will greatly increase productivity.

And finally, when delegation is working smoothly, and a strong, capable team has been created, it is probably time to change things up and return to the chaos.  (Bet you didn’t see that coming.)  You simply cannot stand still in an ever-changing world. Stagnation will cause you to fall behind.  Furthermore, since God is more interested in people than in tasks, He will likely move your capable team members on to greater challenges.

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Balancing Simplicity and Empowerment

Leading a church requires delicate balance.  One often must work a fine line in between two equally worthy ideas, which are oppositional to one another.  I suspect you need an example, because you are already wondering how two oppositional ideas can both be worthy ideas.  The topic of this article is one such example.

One of the principles I choose to emphasize in my church is empowerment.  I believe any church member might be led by God to start a new ministry.  If they are committed to this ministry they can approach the church with a workable plan and gain approval to form this ministry with the blessing and support of our church.

On the other side of the coin is the simple church principle.  This is the idea that if the church is too busy doing a diverse collection of ministries they will soon not be doing any of them well.  Instead of all the different ministries making disciples they will be competing for the limited resources, money and workers, the church has to offer.  Instead a simple church will have one path of discipleship, one process of disciple making, one plan for turning out disciples.

I believe in empowerment. If God did not want to put every member of the church to work, why gift every member with different abilities and passions?

I also believe that if the devil can’t make you bad, he will make you busy.  The church that is exhausted will not be nurturing maturity.  Burnout is a poor substitute for discipleship.

Somewhere in between these two poles is the path that God want’s the individual church to take.

The Gift of Leadership

Leadership is important in every situation.

When the general yells, “Charge!” the soldiers had better run forward ready for battle.

When the CEO says, “We need a software update.” the engineers will begin brainstorming ideas for the next version.

When the Pastor says, “We need to add more Bible study classes.” the church can expect to discuss and may or may not decide what to do about a deficiency in the Bible study hour.

All three of these are leadership, but did you notice how different they are?  One is dictatorial, barking orders that will be followed instantly and without question. Another recognizes a need but unleashes others to work out all the details only maintaining loose oversight. The last one points out a problem, allows others to discuss and decide what do even if the decision is not what he was hoping for.

The point of this exercise is to help remind us that different styles of leadership are appropriate in different situations. If a surgeon ever wants to operate on you and promises to handle the surgical staff democratically, find a new doctor.  Why? Because if a vein is nicked you don’t want him calling for discussion or forming a committee to study it. You want him to fix it. Immediately, before you bleed to death.  You want your surgeon to be dictator.

On the other side of the coin if you are in a volunteer position and someone in the group, leader or one of the other volunteers, is ordering everyone around and refuses to discuss anything, you can expect the volunteers to thin out.  Quickly.  Volunteers almost always want to have a voice in their work, and not just have orders barked at them.  In other words, volunteers want their leaders to be teambuilders.

When it comes to the church, you are working with volunteers.  In a Baptist church it probably has a member empowering, congregational method of carrying out decision making.  Leadership in a situation like that requires learning a different skill set than leadership in business, in the military, or in academia.

In church leadership, the goal should not be getting the church to do what you want.  Instead in some cases it will be, helping the church see what the Lord wants and enabling them to follow Him.  In other cases, it isn’t obvious what best serves the Lord.  For example, maintenance and upgrade issues of the buildings, equipment and even the programs will likely not be addressed by Scripture. In these cases, the church leader should help the church see what it wants and enable them to accomplish it.

It is more important to have unity in the group than to have things done any certain way.  In fact, it more important to have unity in the group than to have things done the best way.  It is better to be unified with problems than to be broken apart and ‘perfect’.  It is better to be thriving and chaotic than to be well oiled machine that is losing membership left and right.

This makes church leadership frustrating for people who have lead in other arenas successfully.  Nevertheless, if they can adjust their style of leadership sufficiently, a person with the gift of leadership can be one of the greatest assets a church has.

Syrian Refugees

One of the political footballs right now is the question of what to do with Syrian Refugees. Some people say we should absolutely not allow them into the United States. Others say that attitude is Islamophobic and Americans should always embrace immigration. The one side points out that some of the terrorists in Paris had come in as Syrian refugees, and possibly the same thing would happen here. The other side believes our vetting process will catch any possible trouble makers.

Both sides of this discussion have invoked a rhetoric of extremes. For example, many have questioned why we would spend resources on these individuals while we have so many problems of our own that are inadequately addressed. One such example has been the cry to not house a single Syrian refugee until every homeless veteran has been sheltered. Although this is an apples to oranges comparison it is a set of priorities I would agree with. Still the reality of government is they do not have the luxury of working on one thing at a time, finishing up higher priorities before working on lower priorities would never work. Government inherently attacks some problems that will never be completely solved.

Those in favor of bringing in refugees also have their rhetoric of extremes. The worst of these, at least in my mind, was hearing Hillary Clinton say “Islam has nothing to do with terrorism.” I couldn’t believe she said those words. History argues strongly against her on that point, as does the Koran.

But that is what happens in politics today. No one listens to reasonable discussion, yet they care deeply about the topics so they resort to shouts, extreme statements, and Facebook memes. This lack of real investigative reporting, genuine information, and open discussion is what is really destroying America.

It will probably surprise most people who know me that I am in favor of bringing in carefully vetted families of Syrian refugees with young children. Yes, I really would limit it to husbands and wives with young children. Unfortunately, I do not believe either that our government will adequately background check these immigrants or that they will limit it to families as I have described. For these two reasons I would stand opposed, but if we would follow these two limitations then I can see several benefits of taking part.

In no particular order here are my reasons. The Syrian refugee crisis is the largest since World War 2, according to the news. Assuming this is not some of the persuasive misinformation put out by the media, it only makes sense that the world leader, the United States, would lead in alleviating the crisis. Also remember that leaving families in the situation tends to raise up new radicals. Islam is inherently violent towards non-Moslems, and in a place of warfare and oppression young men tend to grow up angry. Finally I note that in the United States these individuals will have the most likelihood of understanding the greater rule of law. I am assuming we will not be so foolish as to grant them pockets of sharia law. When exposed to a better way, most people will recognize it and accept it. In fact, I believe more Moslems than ever before are converting to genuine Christianity. This by itself is a powerful reason to allow the ones who are not already hard core opposed to come here, where they will be in contact with Christians and a society shaped by a culture very different than their homeland.

Seeking Courageous Leadership

“Every day the sun comes up, it says something about us.” This statement was made by Kevin Costner, playing Special Assistant to the President Kenneth O’Donnell, toward the end of the movie Thirteen Days, which is about the Cuban missile crisis.

He was referring to the hard reality that ever since the nuclear proliferation of the cold war, humanity has the ability to end the world on any given day. This movie was about an event in history which if not stopped would have placed the rest of the world under Russia’s heel. Thankfully, they were backed down by courageous actions, and the world took a different shape for the following decades.

Now we are in a similar point in history.

Russia was prematurely declared dead. They are rising up with ambitions of restoring their former place, and those who should be standing against its ambitions in Ukraine are surprisingly quiet.

Nuclear proliferation is no longer descriptive of the US and Russia. Instead it is the growing number of countries which have nuclear capabilities, and the number seeking to gain this capability. Some countries are progressing toward nuclear capability, and political activity to stop them has taken place. But remarkably little attention is given to these issues either on the world stage or in the press.

I know the world has changed. I realize the challenges are different and bigger. But these trite explanations don’t change the fact we are once again marching toward the brink of destruction. I don’t wish for a return to simpler times; I know there is no going back. But I do wish for a return to the style of leadership would stand in the face of evil and stop its progress.

Micromanagement vs. Grandstanding

On Saturday, May 31, 2014, President Obama announced the release of the only POW in the afghan conflict. It kind of looked like he was expecting to bolster his popularity by taking this action. When I see this kind of grandstanding I often wonder how much the credit taker had to do with the item he was taking credit for. It often crosses my mind to wonder if they even knew or understood the details of the event.

In this particular case, if President Obama did determine this one soldier’s return was important enough to make it a priority, did he also decide to violate a number of US policies in order to make it happen? Was he aware of the background of the soldier in question?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. But if Obama was as involved as he seemed to want the public to believe, then the situation makes me question his loyalties. The entire deal seems to favor the Taliban.

Micromanagement is when a leader is bogged down in every little detail, and thereby fails to move the organization forward. In my opinion if Obama was brokering this deal personally he was micromanaging. And if he was aware of all the details then that we are all aware of now, his choices were very questionable.

The other choice is, Obama wasn’t very involved, but tried to make political gain by stepping in at the last minute for the photo ops. But as the past few days have demonstrated grandstanding also has its risks.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

Here is a ruddy duck, and a rather mischievous looking one at that. When noticing the details on a ruddy duck see the stiff tail, often held vertically. Because of that tail they are grouped in a small family called stiff-tailed ducks. Notice also the blue bill. That color is not a trick of the light. In fact, the lighting is washing out the color a bit, in reality it’s a brighter shade of blue. Also notice the black, crested crown and the bright white cheek patches. In this particular picture, it all seems to contribute to his appearance of a trouble maker.

And ruddy ducks should look mischievous. Because nesting males, such as this, in the breeding season are very pugnacious. It will stick that tail straight up and chase after all kinds of things. They even have been recorded charging rabbits along the edge of the water.

All this aggression and blustering about at perceived dangers might lead you to believe the birds are successful scrappers. That conclusion would be wrong. Last week I wrote about the pied-billed grebe would submarine and drive off ducks by attacking them from under the water. The ruddy duck is the most common victim of this behavior. I mentioned above, ruddy ducks would even chase off rabbits along the shore, but in reality the rabbits only slip a little distance away. And if you ever watch the process you would almost get the impression the rabbits are laughing.

There is an important lesson here for humanity, especially believers and how they work together in the church. Don’t be like a ruddy duck. When you lead by blustering around and making people tiptoe around your temper, in the long run you will relegate yourself into irrelevance. The people who are intimidated by your temperament will avoid you and your ministry. The people who are not intimidated will ignore you completely, or worse push your buttons just for the entertainment value of watching you blow.

But even more importantly, this is not the type of leadership Jesus has called us to utilize. Consider Matthew 20:25-28 (HCSB) “But Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and the men of high position exercise power over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”