• Elders​—Delegate!

    HE WAS a patient, humble man, with a keen sense of justice tempered by his experiences in life. Thus, over three million men, women, and children confidently looked to him for advice. He tried not to disappoint them. From morning till evening, he listened to their problems and patiently helped them to see how God’s laws applied to their situation. Yes, for a brief period, some 3,500 years ago, the 12 tribes of Israel were judged singlehandedly by one man​—Moses.

    However, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, was concerned. How could Moses ever hope to keep up such a pace? So Jethro declared: “It is not good the way you are doing. You will surely wear out, both you and this people who are with you, because this business is too big a load for you. You are unable to do it by yourself.” (Exodus 18:17, 18 ) The solution? Jethro advised Moses to delegate some of his responsibilities to others. (Exodus 18:19-23 ) Good advice!

    Within the Christian congregation today, there are many elders who, like Moses, are trying to care for more than they can possibly accomplish alone. They organize meetings as well as prepare and then present program parts in an orderly, effective manner. (1 Corinthians 14:26, 33, 40; 1 Timothy 4:13 ) Elders also care for the needs of individual members of the congregation. ( Galatians 6:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; James 5:14 ) They take the lead in the all-important work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14; Hebrews 13:7 ) They arrange, too, for literature supplies to be made available to the congregation for distribution to the public.

    Additionally, some elders are assigned parts on circuit assembly and district convention programs. They staff assembly organizations and serve on hospital liaison committees. Some assist with Kingdom Hall construction. And all of this is in addition to their family responsibilities and their need to feed themselves spiritually. (Compare Joshua 1:8; Psalm 110:3; 1 Timothy 3:4, 5; 4:15, 16 .) How do such Christian men get all of it done? Like Moses they must have help. They must learn to delegate. Indeed, a person who does not delegate is a poor organizer.

    The Value of Training Others

    There are further reasons for delegating responsibility. In Jesus’ illustration of the talents, the master, before departing on a long trip, summoned his slaves and delegated to them varying degrees of responsibility. (Matthew 25:14, 15 ) By so doing, the master was able to achieve several goals. First, while he was away, his slaves acted in his place and necessary work did not grind to a halt while he was gone. Second, since actions speak louder than words, the master could observe the abilities and loyalties of his slaves. Third, the master gave his slaves an opportunity to gain much-needed experience.

    This illustration has meaning for us today. When Jesus left the earth, he committed responsibility to his anointed disciples. The remaining ones of these are still responsible for the worldwide interests of the Kingdom. (Luke 12:42 ) During the modern-day stewardship of the anointed, Jehovah’s blessing has been evident upon his organization. As a result, it has increased wonderfully. Why, in just the last five years, well over a million new ones have symbolized their dedication by water baptism! This has resulted in thousands of new congregations and hundreds of new circuits.

    Just as Jesus Christ delegated responsibilities to “the faithful and discreet slave,” they in turn have assigned congregational responsibilities to elders and ministerial servants of the “other sheep.” (Matthew 24:45-47; John 10:16 ) Nevertheless, more dedicated men are needed to care for the tremendous growth. Where will they come from? Elders must train them. But how can elders train such men if they do not delegate appropriate responsibilities to individuals who show promise? How else do the elders have opportunity to observe the capabilities and loyalties of younger men?

    What Does It Mean to Delegate?

    To some, “delegating” means unloading, avoiding, neglecting, or abdicating their responsibilities. However, when properly used, “delegating” is really a way to fulfill responsibilities. The English verb “to delegate” is defined as, “to entrust to another; to appoint as one’s representative; to assign responsibility or authority.” Nevertheless, the delegator remains ultimately responsible for what is done.

    Some may hold back from delegating because they are afraid they will lose control. Yet, delegating does not mean loss of control. Though invisible and ruling from the heavens, Christ Jesus is very much in control of the Christian congregation. He, in turn, entrusts the congregation to the care of experienced men.​— Ephesians 5:23-27; Colossians 1:13 .

    Others may be disinclined to delegate because they feel they can do the job quicker themselves. However, Jesus saw the value of training others. No one on earth taught more effectively than Jesus. (John 7:46 ) Yet, after giving instructions to 70 of his disciples, he dispatched them into the preaching work. Although unable to equal Jesus in teaching ability, they returned overjoyed at their successes. Jesus rejoiced with them and commended them, for he knew they would carry on with the work long after he was gone and would eventually accomplish more than he ever could working alone.​— Luke 10:1-24; John 14:12 .

    Delegating also means getting help with necessary details. The day before Jesus was to die, he assigned Peter and John to make the necessary arrangements for his last Passover meal. (Luke 22:7-13 ) Jesus did not have to worry about purchasing a lamb, wine, unleavened bread, and bitter greens; nor did he have to gather up utensils, firewood, and the like. Peter and John took care of those details.

    Elders today can enjoy similar benefits if they imitate Jesus’ example. For instance, the one caring for literature may be asked to order needed supplies for an upcoming campaign. He may be instructed to analyze his records to determine how similar items were used in past campaigns. He may also take into consideration the characteristics of the congregation territory before preparing the appropriate order form. He would then submit the form to the congregation secretary for checking. Once the literature servant has learned his job, it should not be necessary for the secretary to double-check past records as long as the totals on the order form are within reason. Clearly, this simple act of delegating would make placing a literature order easier and simpler for all concerned.

    In view of such potential benefits, how can one delegate effectively?

    How to Delegate

    Define the task. First of all, make clear what results are expected. “Do business till I come” is what the “man of noble birth” in Jesus’ illustration of the minas told his ten slaves. (Luke 19:12, 13 ) The master expected the slaves to trade profitably with his mina and then report their gains upon his return. They knew what they had to do. How would this principle apply on a modern-day Kingdom Hall project? As an example, the brother assigned to repair the roof would normally be told what materials to use, where to find them, and when to start the work, weather permitting. Such specific guidelines make for good organization.

    It is important to define not only the scope of a task but also what decisions a person is allowed to make and what matters should be referred to someone else. Moses told his appointees that they were to judge small cases, but difficult cases were to come to him.​—Exodus 18:22 .

    When assigning responsibilities, take care to avoid overlap. When more than one person is assigned the same duties, confusion results. Imagine what could happen if at a large convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses, both the Cleaning Department and the Food Service Department were given the responsibility to clean the food stands, or if both the Attendant Department and the Immersion Department were assigned to direct the observers during the baptism.

    Select capable men. Jethro advised Moses: “You must yourself search for capable, God-fearing men among all the people, honest and incorruptible men, and appoint them over the people.” (Exodus 18:21 , The New English Bible ) Obviously, a man must first meet the spiritual qualifications. To determine if one is “capable” of doing the job at hand, consideration must be given to such factors as personality traits, experience, training, and talents. Thus, a Christian with an especially amiable, pleasant, helpful disposition would likely work well at either the magazine counter or as an attendant. In a similar vein, when selecting someone to assist the congregation secretary, consideration would logically be given to how orderly he is. Does he give attention to detail, is he reliable, and can he keep a confidence? (Luke 16:10 ) Giving consideration to such

    factors in addition to the necessary spiritual qualifications would aid in fitting the right man to the job.

    Assign adequate resources. The one serving will need to have at his disposal certain resources in order to complete an assigned task. Perhaps he will need equipment, funds, or assistance. Assign enough resources. For instance, a brother may be asked to make some necessary repairs on the Kingdom Hall. Obviously, he would be told what needs to be done, but he may also need some petty cash to purchase incidental materials. Perhaps he will need help. So elders may ask others to assist him or make an announcement to the congregation to the effect that ‘Brother So-and-so will be doing such-and-such work on the hall, and he may be approaching some of you to ask for help.’ Such forethought will prevent one from assigning a task without providing adequate resources. “Don’t half-delegate” is the way one management consultant expresses it.

    When assigning responsibilities, inform others that the person is acting in your stead. The authority to act in your place is also a resource. Joshua was commissioned as the new leader of Israel before “all the assembly.” Moses was instructed to “put some of [his] dignity upon him.” (Numbers 27:18-23 ) In the congregation setting, the same may be accomplished by simply posting on the information board a list of those with assigned duties.

    Support their decisions. Now the one assigned can get on with the work at hand. Remember, though, you can be a real source of encouragement to him if you support the good decisions he makes. For instance, you as an elder may have your own preference about how to position microphones and furniture on the Kingdom Hall platform, perhaps somewhat differently from how the assigned brother does it. However, if the brother taking care of the platform is allowed some latitude in his work, he will likely gain confidence and experience. Besides, he may even improve matters. One business consultant stated: “Delegate the task, not how it is done. . . . Often, creative talent is unleashed.”

    Furthermore, the brother on the job with his hand on the plow, so to speak, is often closer to a particular situation and thus may better understand the problems associated with it. He will likely respond to problems with solutions that really work. He may also be dealing with factors that are not obvious to onlookers. Therefore, one Christian overseer said of an experienced assistant: “If he says that he has some rocks in that soil, I have to trust him.”

    Yes, a most valuable resource available to Christian elders is dedicated men and women who are willing and able to assist in whatever way they are directed. Elders, avail yourselves of this excellent commodity! Delegating is a sign of modesty and can minimize stress and frustration. Not only will you thus be enabled to do more but you will give others the opportunity to gain needed experience.

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