The new pastor had just turned 50. He had advanced in ministry through his relational skills, solid biblical teaching, and pastoral care he had shown to congregants as an associate pastor and in other roles. He was easy to like and most people felt comfortable with him. To this point in his career, his relational skills were sufficient when it came to leadership. But he had really been more of a manager than a leader. He thus depended on the senior pastor at his previous churches to make decisions; he would carry them out with a good attitude and a good work ethic.
The First Sign of Problems
The problems began when he was called as a senior pastor. He was now expected to make decisions. He was to take initiative instead of waiting on others to move. He now had people who worked under him and with him who waited on him to make critical decisions.
He failed. He seemed frozen in making decisions. He would not let others under him help him. He treated his new level of pastoral leadership as if he was still an associate pastor who carried out tasks. He perceived it was his responsibility to do everything in ministry, rather than to equip the saints for the work of ministry.
He failed to delegate and thus he failed in his new pastorate.
The Limitations of Failing to Delegate
Failure to delegate will always limit a pastor. He will not be able to expand the ministry of the church because that ministry is limited to one person.
Often the pastor who does not delegate gets overwhelmed and essentially stops functioning. At other times, he may move toward workaholism until the inevitable burnout takes place.
The Reasons Pastors Don’t Delegate
So why do some pastors fail to delegate? I have identified seven reasons, though I’m sure you can think of others.
- Some are control freaks. They want to know all details. They are distrustful of others who might make decisions. They feel as if they have lost control of the church if someone else gets involved in ministry.
- Some are insecure. These pastors worry that they will be perceived as disposable if others do some of the critical work. Their lack of security often means that they will hoard assignments even if they do not get done.
- Some are lazy. They don’t want to take the time to equip and train others to do the tasks. They don’t realize that a little investment in someone else only makes their work more productive.
- Some don’t prioritize. If they did, they would make certain that the most important tasks were accomplished. Instead they often spend time on minutiae that makes little difference.
- Some can’t leave their comfort zones. They would rather do the things they’ve always done because they are comfortable doing so. If they delegated their routine tasks, they would have to move out of their comfort zones to take on new challenges.
- Some have analysis paralysis. If they or a subordinate take on a task, the pastor wants to look at it from every angle. They are famous for preparing long updates for church business meetings when a short summary would suffice. They think they are preparing for every contingency when such a feat is impossible.
- Some fear not getting the credit. This symptom is another facet of insecurity. The pastor is fearful of letting go of anything if the result is someone else getting credit. Instead of being the type of leader who desires to see others become successful, he desires all the recognition. Such is a miserable existence that is doomed for failure.
Rarely does a non-delegating pastor have all of these symptoms. But it does not matter if he has one or multiple symptoms if the end result is a failure to delegate. And a failure to delegate inevitably leads to a failure of leadership.