Don’t Say No For Someone

One thing I have noticed in the lives of pastors and those who are on church staff is a fear when it comes to volunteers and delegation. I understand where it comes from and appreciate it (because I used to feel the same way), but there is also a lot of danger in it and a robbing of our churches.

It goes something like this. A leader in a church has a need, a role that needs to be filled. They have someone in mind who could fill it and do it very well, but they don’t ask them. It might be because they think the person is too busy, that they will say no or that they won’t want to do it (most leaders normally feel this way because we assume that if we don’t like to do something every person on the planet also dislikes doing those things).

What happens then is the leader says no for the person without giving them a chance to say yes or no. Would that person say no? I have no idea and neither do you.

I hear from many pastors though who feel guilty for asking people to give their time in building the kingdom. I understand this sentiment as people are incredibly busy. But I think this also says something about our theology. If all Christians are given spiritual gifts and will one day make an account to God for how they stewarded those gifts, it is our job as leaders to help them develop those gifts and use them (Ephesians 4). When we don’t challenge people, make the big ask of them to step up, we are robbing them of becoming all that God wants them to become and we are keeping them from using all the gifts and talents that God gave to them.

I remember talking to a mentor a few years ago about this fear I had of asking people to get involved or get more involved and he looked at me and said, “Don’t ever say no for someone.”

So, I started letting people tell me no instead of doing it for them. What is has done is required me to trust God more when it comes to leaders and the holes that our church has, it has forced me to make some big ask’s of people and cast vision to people, but God has also had people step up in ways that I didn’t expect them to do because “I didn’t say no for them.”

How to Keep People from Serving

I was talking to a friend the other day and he was asking me a question all pastors wrestle with. And that is, what to do and what to give away to other staff or volunteer leaders.

He was sharing how he showed up to help with the set up and tear down for his church because they are portable.

While my friend wasn’t saying this, what this stems from for many pastors is a desire to not seem lazy (after all, we get paid for this), for some it is because they don’t trust people and are afraid to give something away (not the case with my friend). He looked at me and said, “You don’t think I should do that do you?”

My answer was simple. No. Not because it isn’t worth his time. Sadly, that is the criteria many pastors use for deciding what to do. But my reason was simple. By doing that, he was actually keeping someone else from serving. Because the set up team doesn’t need another person because he is there every week. Many times, out of a sense of duty, not wanting to seem lazy or whatever reason we have, we actually keep people from serving.

So, what do you do on a weekly basis that you should stop doing? What are you doing that someone else can do? Every pastor or leader does things that someone else can do? But, we also do things we can’t pass off to someone. Those are the things we need to pour time and energy into.

Everytime I give something away at Revolution, it is nerve wracking because I am putting trust into someone else. It also takes work because I have to spend time with that person passing it off, bringing them up to speed. Although, truth be told, the reason leaders take so long to pass something off has more to do with the leader and less to do with the capability of the person we are passing that thing off to.

For me, the idea of keeping someone from doing something has actually changed the way I view giving things away and developing other leaders.

Spotting the Best Leader

“Usually the best person to lead an area of ministry you want to give away is already too busy to volunteer. Effective leaders are seldom sitting around looking for something to do with their time.” – Geoff Surratt, Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches from Growing

Letting Go

The last few months has seen a lot of behind the scenes transition at Revolution. Very little outwardly has changed during this transition, but will be huge for the future of Revolution.

When we began as a church in September, all the strings were attached to me. This is pretty normal. From the beginning though, Revolution has had no desire to be a church just for the people there, but a church that reaches people. We made a concious decision from the beginning that we would reach as many people as God would allow us to reach.

According to every study I’ve read, the two hardest growth barriers to get through for any church are 65 and 125. Getting through these two barriers rest primarily with the lead pastor. Interestingly, 85% of churches in America do not get through the 65 barrier. The reason it rests on the pastor has to do with whether or not he does everything. Does he build a team? Does he hand things off to other leaders? Will the church let him? I don’t think the blame rests just with the pastor because some churches do not want their pastor to hand things off.

When we hired Paul in December, I knew that we were deciding to get through these barriers. It meant that I would have to give up a lot of things I was doing. This was exciting and painful all at the same time.

Ask anybody who starts anything and they will tell you that thing becomes like one of their kids. You do not want to let it go, even when it is time. There are so many things I was doing that I was not gifted to do, but I was doing them. I liked the status of saying, “Look at how hard I work.” This is stupid, but every leader feels this.

We conciously started to hand things off to Paul from my plate. We also raised up an incredible LEAD Team. These are high capacity volunteers in our community. They each oversee a different team.

I was asked by someone if I now do less with all the leaders we have and having Paul on board. No, I actually do more, it’s just different. This has made Revolution more stable, and healthier. Particularly because it has made me healthier and more stable. I am able to concentrate on those things that I should concentrate on:  preaching, raising up leaders, connecting with people and leading the church. Every leader who takes something off my plate gives me that much more time to do those things.

If you’ve been here since September, the change is obvious. Things are done better, smoother. I am less stressed out on Saturday night, I am more available to be a pastor to our church and I am better prepared to open the Bible and throw down on Saturday nights.

So why don’t all churches and pastors move in this direction?

I think some pastors like the status that comes with being a martyr: “look at all the things I do. I’m so busy.” Some pastors think they are supposed to do everything, like they are the one Christian who got all the spiritual gifts. Some pastors don’t know how to give anything away, they don’t know how to function if they don’t do anything.

Some churches think their pastor should do everything, as if things aren’t important if he doesn’t do them or a meeting isn’t important if he isn’t there. Some think they are paying him to do everything (this is so unbiblical it isn’t even funny).

A few weeks ago I had a huge celebration moment. I looked at our volunteering brochure and my name was not on it. In September, my name was everywhere on it. It means, you can start serving at Revolution without talking to me. That means we have some high capacity leaders serving where they should be, using their gifts. That makes Revolution healthier, it means more people can be a part of what is going on and it creates a place that is ready to reach people and can do so.

If you are pastor, you are not great at everything, you aren’t even good at everything. Everything you hold onto that is outside of your gifting, you are actually robbing someone in your church of letting God use them. Letting go is hard. It is painful. It does create more work the more leaders you have and less you do directly. Everytime I hand something off, creates another person I need to stay connected with.

But it is the way God created the church to function.

Raise Them Up

One of the difficulties that many leaders run into is a lack of leaders. You rarely hear a church say, “We have too many leaders.” While it is true that there often is a shortage of volunters in a church, I wonder if the leaders help to make the problem happen.

In most churches, there is a capable team of leaders at the top, but they all have the same problem. They know how they got raised up into leadership, they just don’t know how to raise other people up.

This happens for a variety of reasons:

What if someone can’t do something as well as I can. There is a strong possibility that at first, it will not have the same quality. There is also a strong possibility that it might be better. I’ve had several mentors tell me, “If someone can do something 70 – 80% as well as you, let them do it.” When I no longer do something I am not gifted to do, not only do I allow someone else to use their gifts, but it allows me to do things that I can’t give away, things I don’t want to give away, things that fire me up to do.

It is easier if I just do it. This goes with the first one. At first it will be easier if you do it, but then you cut down the amount of people who can be involved, but you also keep yourself from getting better at other things and spending time on those things.

Do I trust this person enough to hand this off. This is a personal fear that you will have to get past. Start small, don’t hand a new leader an entire team unless you think they can handle it. Put them on the team, then give them more responsibility as they prove themselves.

I will have to keep this person accountable if I hand this off. This is a lazy leadership excuse.

There are some loose ends I have to tie up before I can train someone. When in life, ministry, work or leadership are all the loose ends tied up. This is just an excuse.

What if they don’t want to do it. Let them say no then. This also comes from a leader who has not cast a vision that is compelling. When someone knows that what they do is important, that it adds value, they will put up chairs, pick up trash, anything to be a part of the vision that is going somewhere and helping people.

They are too busy. If they are too busy, let them tell you, don’t just assume they are too busy or don’t want to do it. If they don’t want to do it, let them say no, but by not asking them, by not giving them the opportunity to say no, you are also not giving them the opportunity to say yes.

All of these are often true, but they are also deceptive lies.

Think about your life as a leader, at some point someone tapped you on the shoulder and raised you up as a leader. You are leading because someone gave you responsibility and let you use your gifts. As a leader, we get to do this, we don’t have to, we get to.