I’ve been a vicar for 19 months. In that time the structures of church government, the various roles and responsibilities and who can do them has been taking a new shape. There are great encouragements here and there, but we’re not without our teething problems.
Some people have stepped back from various roles which they did very well for years but knew it was time to hand on the the next generation. We need to identify the tasks, clarify responsibility and expectations and delegate tasks or projects to others. I have not found this easy. My struggles in this area might be built-in. I’m not sure I can see exactly what needs done, who could do it nor when they need help. I do know that our systems need another tweak. The question is, am I the right person for this work or do I need to look for support and help to get the systems working well?
Alistair Begg writes a very humble and helpful comment on the matter of ministry direction in “on Being a Pastor.” It seems that it took almost six years for him to get some admin support in his first church and ten years at the next church, with him “muddling through”, before he made an appointment with the encouragement of his elders which delegated a great chunk of work to a fellow elder. I hope with the help of his book that the lessons he learned can be learned and overcome much quicker at Holy Trinity. I have just received admin support which is making a real difference. What other areas will benefit from clear and effective delegation?
Here at Parkside we are a “work in progress.” Over the years as the size and structure of the congregation has changed I have been learning how to adapt both my expectations (of myself as well as others) and my mode of operating.
After serving as an assistant to Derek [Prime] I pastored a church on my own for six years. During my final year I had an assistant and secretarial help on a couple of mornings a week. If I had remained there, I would have tried to develop the ministry along the lines detailed above.
In coming to Parkside I inherited a youth pastor, a pastor of discipleship, a music director who was a woman, and two secretaries in the office. It very quickly became apparent that the pattern of delegation that I had brought across the ocean could not be superimposed upon the structure here. For the next ten years I tried my best, but with only marginal success.
It took all that time for me and my fellow elders to realize that I needed significant help in this area. When a church is smaller and more manageable, then it is easier to “muddle through,” but before too long the deficiencies will be hard to disguise.
Over a period of a few months I met with three of our elders, to think and pray about how we might do better at delegation and developing ministry at Parkside. These discussions were prayerful, honest, and challenging. They caused me to recognize places where I was either inefficient or perhaps incompetent, or maybe both! I would in passing recommend this kind of process to other pastors who may be facing a similar challenge. The “solution” adopted by too many churches is simply for pastor and people to part company. This seldom solves the problem and usually sends the pastor somewhere else to “muddle through” until he reaches the same impasse as before.
Our solution was to invite one of our elders, who at I hat time was a partner with an accounting firm, to join our pastoral team as “director of ministry.” This involved a very significant delegation on my part. Essentially what I did was give Jeff the oversight of the other members of the pastoral team and ask him to help me in overall direction of ministry.