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Learning to Share the Load

By Doug Franklin July 14, 2014

On many of the retreats I led as a youth worker, I did it all. I was the teacher, logistical leader, duffle bag finder, food guy, and emcee. At the end of one of our winter retreats, an adult volunteer asked if she could talk with me. It had been a great retreat, so I was confident this would be a good meeting. She started with praise for all the good things that happened on the retreat.

But then her brow furrowed, and she crossed her arms. Despite all the positives, she was critical of one point: the food we served. Pizza, sugary cereal, snacks, lots of candy—the same stuff I served on every retreat. She was concerned that there was no salad, fresh fruit, or healthy options. “It’s a youth ministry event,” I said. The logic was self-explanatory. But she said that excuse didn’t cut it anymore. And she was right.

She offered to take over food coordination at all our youth ministry events. I was thrilled! Sure we might have to endure some salad. But if she wanted to do the buying and serving, then that was one big thing of my plate.

To my surprise, students loved the new options (kids these days!). And I loved the extra help. Then it dawned on me: Were there other leadership roles I could delegate to volunteers? I started reading everything I could about delegation. Seeing as how my first step into delegation had been by accident, I didn’t know what I was getting into.

As I started to ask adult volunteers to step up into larger leadership roles, I found that they needed lots of encouragement. But once they jumped in, most loved their new roles. I now had more time for students. I could build stronger relationships with students, allowing me to challenge them to step into leadership roles of their own.

For some of us, delegation is tough. We know it’s important, but we can’t find the time to make it happen. Truth be told, we don’t have the confidence to ask people to lead parts of our ministry. First, we need to understand that, unless we get more people involved, our leadership is capped. We also have to realize that good people will leave our ministry unless we give
them more opportunities to lead. So how do we take that next step in leadership and begin to delegate responsibilities to others in our youth ministries?

1. Understand your responsibilities.
Make a list of every task you do for your job. Don’t leave anything out. It can be a big list sometimes. Next to each item, put a checkmark by the responsibilities that bring you life, the ones you enjoy most. Then circle each responsibility you know, beyond a shadow of doubt, no one else can do (intentionally limit yourself if you feel like you need to do absolutely everything). Hopefully your circled and checked items will line up, but they may not entirely. The point is to find the life-giving tasks that will keep you going and the responsibilities that won’t keep going without you.

2. Know your followers.
Now take the list of responsibilities that don’t have a circle or a checkmark and think about someone else in the ministry who would love to do that job. To make these decisions, you will need to know your people very well. Think about using a LeaderTreks assessment like Sweet Spot to help reveal your people’s passions and gifts. Now delegate to them their new tasks. Make it a big deal. Don’t just give them responsibility—give them authority, too.

3. Provide training and evaluation.
Don’t just dump the new responsibilities into their laps. Provide training and encouragement to help them get the most out of their new leadership roles. Also give them detailed feedback and evaluation so they know if they meeting expectations, and so you know if they need additional training.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More