I’m not sure when it happened. It must’ve been some time between the late nights IM’ing advice to teenagers in our youth group and caring for our two little sons. I was dropping balls left and right and feeling frazzled. At some point in there, I realized I couldn’t do it all.
Have you ever felt like this? Maybe you weren’t certain which household duties needed to be done first. Maybe you didn’t know how to delegate to others when serving at church or working for an employer. Delegating is a difficult skill, and we often find ourselves frazzled because we don’t know how to delegate and we end up doing things all by ourselves.
That described me twenty years ago. While I wanted to be helpful in all the areas of my life, I didn’t know how to not do it all. Perhaps I didn’t trust others to help, but mostly I thought if something needed to be done, and I had the ability and desire to do it, then I would just do it.
During this season of life I read Exodus 18 in a Bible study group. I related to Moses’ burden of helping the people. Moses sat to judge the people, and people stood about Moses from the morning until the evening. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, had been visiting Moses when he observed this phenomenon. Just prior to seeing this, Jethro rejoiced in hearing how the Lord protected His people and brought them out of Egypt’s slavery. Jethro worshipped God as he heard of His great power. But, he was incredulous seeing Moses taking on so much solo responsibility. Wisely, Jethro counseled Moses in the basics of delegation. You could call it Delegation 101, I suppose. It was a class I needed to take myself during this time of life, and it’s a class I need to return to for refreshers quite often.
So, why delegate?
The big thing in leadership is to “know your why”. Why do you do what you do? Jethro was ahead of his time because he came out of the gate with Moses’ why for delegating. The thing that you are doing is not good. Jethro held no punches. Why wasn’t it good? You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.
Have you ever seen someone in a frazzled state of affairs because they were trying to do everything on their own? I’m grateful for the level of commitment and responsibility when I see this in someone, but I also know they need help. Sometimes saying, “This isn’t right, this isn’t good” is necessary so they know the burden isn’t solely theirs. While someone may have ultimate responsibility, help is always good and should be appreciated.
Jethro sums up his “why” with You cannot do it alone. We would do well to remember that we are a Body of Christ, and God has created other people within this Body to help in a variety of ways. This is true at home or in the workplace too. We are not meant to do everything alone. Maybe we are called to do a job that isn’t burdensome like Moses’ work, but even so, how can we humbly ask others to join in? We need to reject self-imposed guilt or independence and ask for help. But how?
How do I delegate?
Jethro’s wise advice could be applied instantly in Moses’ situation, but I believe his advice is still applicable all these years later. While Moses was hearing disputes among the people, Jethro’s words can guide us when delegating chores to our children, when serving on a church committee, or when figuring out how to prioritize our daily tasks.
Listen & Pray
Listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God. Sadly, I’ve had times of being stubborn and proud while leading. I’ve thought I’ve had to do my role perfectly and not ask others for help. Jethro anticipated this common sin of man when he advised Moses to listen to his counsel and depend on God. Humbling ourselves to ask what our leaders need from us, and humbling ourselves to explain clearly to our followers, will bring about better results in the end.
Your first step in delegating is to listen to others who have done this thing before you. Consider their ways, their experiences. Ask how they’ve delegated tasks to get the big jobs done. Ask your leaders what they expect and when. Listen carefully. Then, pray. Ask God to give you creativity in accomplishing this work and strength and power so He gets the glory!
Teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do. Have you ever gotten frustrated by a child not doing a task properly? I know I have. Usually the reason the child doesn’t do the task correctly is because of inadequate instruction. Or, they’ve needed multiple demonstrations when I’ve thought they should have remembered after one.
Jethro instructed Moses to teach the people God’s ways in which they were to walk and the work they were to do. This pertains to obeying God’s specific commands, but it also helps with essential daily life tasks. In managing a home, people (big or small), or a daily to-do list, we will be more productive when we know what we are to do.
Imagine yourself knowing nothing about the task and needing to start from the beginning. This will help you give better step-by-step instructions. Breaking up the big tasks into smaller tasks allows us to give others specific work to do. Often the problem behind not delegating is that we don’t see how to break up a big task into smaller ones, so we don’t know how to ask others for help.
When you are in charge of something or someone, explain how to accomplish the task clearly. Keep open communication. Ask people to summarize your instructions. Follow-up to see how the task is going and if any help is needed. Ask if you’re over-explaining (“micro-managing”), and ask God to check your heart if you’re trusting Him and not controlling the situation instead.
Don’t feel bad asking others to join in on the work—this is an opportunity to work together. If that thought makes you cringe, then I encourage you to examine your heart for pride. When we don’t want our children to fold our towels or help in the kitchen, is it pride? Control? Repent. When we don’t want to ask other women at church to help us in our work, do we fear rejection or do we have other reasons? Seek God’s wisdom and repent if sinning.
Select good people to help you
When Jethro told Moses to select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain, he was setting Moses up for success. If Moses chose these kinds of helpers then he wouldn’t have to be concerned with a team that would be out for themselves as opposed to glorifying God.
When you are in a leadership role, no matter how big or small, be mindful who you choose to be on your team. Pray, seek wisdom from others, and then gather up a team of people who love God and seek Him above themselves. It can be helpful, when leading a team at church or work, to ask people of all ages with varying levels of abilities and experiences to join you. When we just ask friends, we are limiting ourselves. But, reaching out beyond the familiar often brings rewards.
Now, if we’re considering leading in our homes as we manage the housework and any children we may have, well, we can’t exactly “choose” our team of kids. But, we can be wise in choosing our husbands-to-be. And, as far as our children go, mamas are given the privilege of training them so that they might fear God and be people of truth who hate dishonest gain.
Finding good people to help you in your work will allow you to focus on the big picture while the nitty-gritty details are taken care of by your people. Jethro had told Moses that every major dispute they would bring to him, but the minor disputes they would judge. When your team knows they are being trained and trusted to care for the details they are given, then they can work well in that sphere. When they have a bigger issue, then they can go to you for help. This applies to serving at church, work, or with our children in the home.
From chaos to peace
Jethro told Moses that if he listened to this wisdom then he would be able to endure and all these people will go to their place in peace. Jethro arrived onto the chaotic scene and brought peace.
Our homes can sometimes be places of chaos. Or we can be fearful of serving on a committee, or leading a committee, because we don’t have any idea what to do. But, as we consider Jethro’s age-old advice for our lives, we will learn valuable truths for delegation. Listening and praying, explaining tasks well and following up as needed, and selecting godly people (or training them to be godly people) are key principles that guided Moses, and can guide us in serving others.
Jethro’s advice helped me back in the day as a young mom who was helping to lead a youth group. My life was chaotic because I was trying to do everything by myself. But, God’s word convicted me as I read this passage. I don’t delegate naturally or perfectly by any stretch, but God does remind me to return to this principle often so I can train others to serve efficiently. Ultimately, we want to be the godly ones who can be trusted with a job in the home, the church, or our workplaces so God is seen in the world around us. To Him be the glory!