Delegating​—Why and How?

DELEGATING has a longer history than has planet Earth. Jehovah created his only-begotten Son and then, using his Son as “a master worker,” made the universe. (Prov. 8:22, 23, 30; John 1:3) When God created the first human couple, he told them to “fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen. 1:28) The Creator charged humans with the work of expanding the Paradise of Eden to fill the whole earth. Yes, from the beginning, delegating has been a characteristic of Jehovah’s organization.

What is involved in delegating? Why should Christian elders learn to delegate certain congregation tasks to others, and how can they do that?

What Is Delegating?

“To delegate” means “to entrust to another; to appoint as one’s representative; to assign responsibility or authority.” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition) So delegating calls for involving others to accomplish objectives. That naturally leads to sharing authority.

Those given a task to do in the Christian congregation are expected to fulfill the assignment, to give progress reports, and usually  to consult with the one who did the delegating. The basic responsibility, though, rests with the appointed brother who delegated the work. He needs to monitor progress and give advice as needed. Yet, some may ask, ‘Why delegate if you can do the job yourself?’

Why Delegate?

Think about Jehovah’s creating his only-begotten Son and delegating to him a share in the rest of the creative work. Yes, “by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible.” (Col. 1:16) The Creator could have done everything by himself, yet he decided to have his Son share in the joy of accomplishing productive work. (Prov. 8:31) This helped the Son to learn more about God’s qualities. In a sense, the Father used the opportunity to train his only-begotten Son.

When on earth, Jesus Christ imitated his Father in delegating responsibility. He gradually trained his disciples. He sent the 12 apostles and later 70 other disciples ahead of him to spearhead the preaching work. (Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-7) When Jesus later arrived in such places, a good foundation had been laid for him to build on. Upon leaving the earth, Jesus delegated heavier responsibilities, including the worldwide preaching work, to his trained disciples.​—Matt. 24:45-47; Acts 1:8.

Delegating and training became characteristics of the Christian congregation. The apostle Paul told Timothy: “These things commit to faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim. 2:2) Yes, experienced ones are to train those who, in turn, will train still others.

By delegating some of the work assigned to him, an elder can share with others the joy of teaching and shepherding. Recognizing that human abilities are limited, elders have even more reason to ask others to share in congregation responsibilities. The Bible states: “Wisdom is with the modest ones.” (Prov. 11:2) Modesty includes an awareness of one’s limitations. If you try to do everything yourself, you may wear yourself out and deprive your family of the time you could otherwise spend with them. So it is indeed the course of wisdom to share the load of responsibility. Take, for example, the brother serving as the coordinator of the body of elders. He may ask other elders to audit the congregation accounts. By going over the records, those elders can familiarize themselves with the financial condition of the congregation.

While delegating provides an opportunity for others to gain necessary skill and experience, it also allows the one delegating the responsibility to observe the abilities of those who have been given the task. Thus, by delegating appropriate functions in the congregation, the elders can test prospective ministerial servants “as to fitness.”​—1 Tim. 3:10.

Finally, by delegating, elders show their trust in others. Paul gave Timothy on-the-job training in the missionary service. A close bond developed between the two men. Paul called Timothy “a genuine child in the  faith.” (1 Tim. 1:2) Similarly, a strong bond was forged between Jehovah and Jesus as they worked together in creating all other things. By entrusting work to others, elders can develop a warm relationship with them.

Why Some Hesitate

Although knowing the advantages, some elders find it difficult to delegate, perhaps holding back because they feel that they are giving up authority. They may think that they must always be personally at the wheel, so to speak. Yet, remember that before ascending to heaven, Jesus authorized his disciples to carry out a weighty assignment, all the while knowing that they would accomplish works greater than his!​—Matt. 28:19, 20; John 14:12.

Other elders may have delegated in the past but did not see satisfactory results. They may feel that they can do the job better and faster themselves. Yet, consider Paul’s example. He knew the value of delegating, but he also realized that the trainees would not always live up to his expectations. On his first missionary tour, Paul trained his young traveling companion, Mark. Paul was greatly disappointed by Mark’s leaving his assignment and returning home. (Acts 13:13; 15:37, 38) Still, that did not stop Paul from training others. As already mentioned, he invited the young Christian Timothy to be his traveling companion. When Timothy was ready to carry heavier responsibility, Paul left him in Ephesus, entrusting him with the authority to appoint congregation overseers and ministerial servants.​—1 Tim. 1:3; 3:1-10, 12, 13; 5:22.

Similarly, modern-day elders should not give up in training brothers just because one of them does not respond well. It is wise and important to learn to trust others and to train them. What factors, though, should elders keep in mind when delegating?

How to Delegate

In delegating responsibilities, consider the qualifications of the brothers you have in mind. When a need to care for the daily food distribution arose in Jerusalem, the apostles selected ‘seven certified men, full of spirit and wisdom.’ (Acts 6:3) If you ask an unreliable person to do a job, he may simply fail to carry it out. So delegate small tasks first. When a person proves faithful, he may be able to handle more responsibility.

Yet, more is involved. Personalities and abilities differ. Experience too varies from person to person. A brother with a friendly, pleasant disposition may do well as an attendant, while one who is orderly and systematic may prove most helpful as an assistant to the congregation secretary. A sister with artistic ability may be entrusted with arranging flowers for the Memorial.

When assigning responsibilities, specify clearly what is expected. Before John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus, he explained to them what he wanted to know and the wording of the inquiry. (Luke 7:18-20) On the other hand, when Jesus instructed  his disciples to collect the leftovers of miraculously provided food, he left the details to them. (John 6:12, 13) Much depends on the nature of the task and the qualifications of the helper. Both the one delegating and the one invited to perform the task should have an understanding of the expected results and the extent of progress reports to be made. Both should know how much is left up to the discretion of the person doing the job. If the task is to be completed by a certain date, it may be more motivating if the due date is discussed and agreed upon rather than simply being imposed.

The one assigned should be equipped with funds, tools, and help as needed. It may help to make the arrangement known to others. When Jesus entrusted Peter with “the keys of the kingdom of the heavens,” he did so in the presence of other disciples. (Matt. 16:13-19) Likewise, in some cases it may be good to let the congregation know who is responsible for a certain task.

Caution is also in order. If you still try to manage the job that you have delegated to someone, you will send him the message, “I don’t really trust you.” Granted, at times the result might not turn out exactly as you had expected. Yet, if the brother who has been given a responsibility is allowed some leeway, he will likely gain confidence and experience. Naturally, this does not mean being unconcerned about how he handles the task. Although entrusting a role in the creation process to his Son, Jehovah still involved himself in the work. He said to the Master Worker: “Let us make man in our image.” (Gen. 1:26) So by your words and actions, support the work being done, and commend the person for his efforts. A brief review of the result can help him. If the work is not being done properly, do not hesitate to offer additional advice or help. Remember, the final responsibility lies with you as the one delegating.​—Luke 12:48.

Many have benefited from having congregation tasks delegated to them by older men who took a real interest in them. Indeed, all elders need to learn why and how to delegate, in imitation of Jehovah.

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• a way to share the joy of accomplishment

• a way to accomplish more

• a manifestation of wisdom and modesty

• a way to train others

• a way to demonstrate trust in others

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• Select appropriate individuals for the task

• Clearly explain/​communicate

• Clarify what should be accomplished

• Provide necessary resources

• Be concerned about the task, and express your trust

• Be willing to take the final responsibility

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Delegating includes assigning a task and following up on the progress