God loves to use previous generations of leaders to raise up the next generation of leaders, and when the church is at her best, we’re really good at it.

You probably learned how to preach under the tutelage of a pastor who trusted his pulpit to you for a Sunday night or midweek service. Even though at the time you believed your preaching quality was high, you squirm when you listen to old recordings now. Imagine what your pastor was thinking at the moment. They had to make the conscious decision to empower you when they could have done the job better themselves. You probably learned how to lead by heading up small fundraisers and mission trips, no doubt causing headaches and leaving messes for your pastor to clean up, but they knew there’s no substitute for experience. Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.

Empowering churches provide places for future leaders to lead before they’re ready.Click To Tweet

When Jesus ascended to Heaven, the church, as we know it, was a needle in a haystack. It was a few hundred people in a small radius. In the years that followed it multiplied to thousands and then millions worldwide. Obviously you can’t overstate the role of the Holy Spirit and the sovereignty of God in the expansion of the church, but it would be unwise to ignore the leadership principles modeled by Jesus as well.

Jesus the “healer” was miraculous. Jesus the “Savior” was gracious, and much attention is given to those qualities of Christ, but Jesus “the leader” was intentional. He knew how to recruit and develop a team, and his leadership qualities are often overshadowed. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard someone praise the delegation skills of Jesus, but He was remarkable. Think about it. Before he attempted to accomplish anything publicly he hand-picked a small group of disciples. He explained his teaching to them and gave them a front row seat to his miracles. Jesus knew that leadership development is more “caught” than “taught.” He understood the power of observation.

What If I Don’t Have the “Right” People?

Any conversation about delegation and leadership development inevitably leads to questions about the quality of the current leaders on your team. The easiest scapegoat if you lack quality leaders in your pipeline is to blame the talent pool. If you had better people you would be able to better develop them, right? When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you because they’re not the finished product you’re looking for. You dream about a future when the right person will help grow your church, but what if you already have the right people? I believe you do.

PASTOR: When you spend so much time hoping for the “right” people you miss the people right in front of you. God has given you who you need to do what he's called you to do in this season.Click To Tweet

1 Corinthians 12:18 is a very convicting verse for all pastors, especially those who struggle with believing they’re missing the “right” people. According to the Apostle Paul,

1 Corinthians 12:18
God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

God has provided exactly who you need to accomplish exactly what you’re supposed to do now. In the future, changes will probably need to be made, but that doesn’t limit what God can do now with the people you already have around you. So look around. Evidently, God believes the people with you are the right people for right now. The good news is God has already sent the right people; the challenging news is He leaves it up to you to steward them well. Like me, you’ve spent time desperately praying for God to send the right person through the doors of the church, but what if God already sent them and you’re just looking at the wrong doors? What if God sent them through the doors of the children’s or student ministry? If you look closely, there is probably a teenager with a smart phone who could make a video for your church or a teenager who seems disinterested but loves to play the guitar. The quality might not be great, but with time, opportunity, and investment, the upside is.

Delegate or Dump?

I’ve never met a leader who didn’t desire to delegate responsibilities to someone else on their team, but if you’re not careful delegating looks more like dumping. So how can you empower and effectively delegate? Many great resources have been written to help leaders delegate, but my favorite is a simple five step process we use with our team.

I do. You watch.

This is the first step. You are modeling the tasks that needs to be completed. Your protégé isn’t really helping at all; they are just shadowing you. Be sure to communicate the “why” during this step. By communicating “why” you are not just handing off tasks but you are training them to think as you think, and that’s the key. Those who serve under you may never do things exactly as you do, but if they do something for the same reasons you would, you’re beginning the process of reproducing yourself.

I do. You help.

This is the part of the process where someone else is working alongside you. Go slow! I realize it’s hard. You could move much faster by yourself and probably be more effective, but that would defeat the purpose— they wouldn’t know how to do the job when you step away. Don’t solve problems in your head, solve them out loud. If you let them witness how you solve problems, they will solve future problems without running to you.

You do. I help.

Give up control. Empower them to make decisions. Let them know they are in charge of the task. Depending on their confidence level it may be hard for them to lead you, but force them to do it. The best way to learn something is to teach it. So have them tell/teach you to do it as if you are brand new. Remember, anything you accomplish while they are unaware they won’t know to do themselves or teach someone to do later. Ask a lot of leading “why” questions. Things like: why do you do this first? Why is it important to do this here? They will be able to articulate things they need to know and explain later.

You do. I watch.

In this stage, you are only the fire extinguisher. It’s their job to do and your job to let them do. This is the hardest step for most leaders because they are going to go slow and they are going to make mistakes. Let them. If you can endure this stage, you are more successful than 95% of leaders. The pay off in the next stage is directly proportional to how effectively you can take your hands off in this stage.

I’m out.

Congratulations, you have officially developed a new leader to complete tasks and lead on your behalf. You’ve taken one more step out of doing and into leading. You are now free from the task that you used to do. Stay out of completing the task but stay close enough to offer regular affirmation and encouragement. Now that you have successfully handed something off, what’s the next thing you can train someone else to take off your plate? Whether it was teaching, healing, rebuking or pointing people to the Father, it’s interesting how similar the accounts of the disciples’ ministry are to those of Christ in previous years. Evidently, they were always close enough to take good notes. So, here’s the challenge for you: who’s watching as you do? Who’s helping you do? Who are you helping do? Who are you watching to insure they can be trusted? Answer those questions, and you’ll be well on your way to developing leaders around you.

This post was taken as an excerpt from our book “Toxic Soul: A Pastor’s Guide To Leading Without Losing Heart.” You can pick up your copy at Amazon.com.

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Jeremy Isaacs
Jeremy Isaacs pastors Canton Church in Canton GA, and is the author of "Toxic Soul: A Pastor's Guide To Leading Without Losing Heart." You can find more information at jeremyisaacs.org