All ministers face the possibility of overwork. In many circumstances, ministers are expected to become all things to all people in their church. They are expected to attend (and pray at!) every event, visit every sick person, lead every meeting, serve at every opportunity. And these things, done in an appropriate balance, are an important part of serving any church. But there is one glaring problem.
All ministers are also only human.
Burnout and overwork contribute to the growing number of ministers who deal with depression and in severe cases, suicide ideation and even attempt. The mental health of pastors is declining at an alarming rate. And still, many people in churches expect a pastor to say “yes” to everything.
It is not just about people pleasing. Many churches struggle with finding congregants outside a select few, who will volunteer their time to serve the church. The few people who do everything in the church, then, fear that if not for their continued efforts, the church will cease to survive. Other ministers wear themselves thin out of genuine love for the people and a desire to do right by them. But a pastor cannot do right by others if they are doing wrong to themselves. And overwork is not what God has asked of us. It harms us, and it hinders the kingdom of God.
The delegation of pastoral duties among the congregation is crucial to preventing burnout or overwork. To delegate duties is to simply ask others in the church to help bear the burdens of ministry. Some may feel that this is a pastor “taking the easy way out” or neglecting to do what they are called to do. But the opposite is true.
Delegating Duties Helps Others Fulfill Their Role in God’s Kingdom
The true role of a pastor is not only to serve, but to disciple others and to empower others spiritually so that they may follow in the footsteps of Jesus and themselves serve. When ministers fail to delegate, they rob their people of the joys of service and of the lessons that come from service when it is hard work, and not so joyful. Delegation is not a failure to do your job. It is a necessary means to do your best work. There are so many people with the church with beautiful gifts that they are not using. The great joy of ministry is that we get to help people use those gifts to serve Jesus. Delegating duties allows us to do this.
Delegating Duties Demonstrates Humility
Allowing others to do what we cannot do ourselves also demonstrates humility. It is prideful to think that the survival of our church depends on us alone. We must acknowledge our own limits and not be afraid for those limits to show. God calls humans, not superheroes.
The survival of the church depends on God alone. He will provide what is necessary. Sometimes it is a great wake-up call to people when duties are left undone. When people realize they must step up to the plate in order for an event to take place, a program to be run, etc. it can force them out of their comfort zone and into the waters that God calls His people to traverse.
Delegating Duties Sets Boundaries
Of course, all of this sounds well and good in theory. But in truth, there are times that failure to do everything people in our churches want us to do is not a wake-up call but a call for criticism. The fear of criticism is valid, especially when our livelihoods are dependent on how well people perceive us to be leading our churches.
To this, I offer three thoughts.
- Delegating does not mean duties are left undone. It means they are divided among God’s people. This often means we have to ask people directly. Some people may not volunteer for something, but will do it when asked.
- You matter. If you are in a church environment that expects you do all things, it is possible that your congregants want a minister they can worship instead of a minister who leads them to God. In this case, much prayer is needed. It may even be time to move on and find a new church to serve.
- Delegating duties allows you the breathing room to get the rest and fuel that you need in order to do your essential duties well. Ministers must care for themselves in order to care for others.
Boundaries prevent us not only from becoming overloaded, but also from becoming bitter and angry toward those we serve. It is hard to love when we resent others because we are exhausted and feeling taken for granted.
If no one has told you yet today, it is okay not to do everything. It is okay to say no. Sometimes, saying no is the greatest act of leadership, humility, and wisdom that a minister can offer.