Helping Deacons Deak:

when elders assign the work and deacons don’t do it

There are two problems in delegation: not releasing a task and not accepting responsibility.

I received the following email after a previous post:

Marked this (delegation) early this morning to send to my elders…they do a great job in this area. The most challenging things for them are:

  • Deacons who “grew up” under a system where they were not allowed such freedom and end up wanting an elder to always hold their hands.

  • Members who do not accept deacons’ given authority and bring matters to them instead of dealing with deacons.

Here are elders who want to be shepherds. They want deacons to lead in their areas.

Two Problems:
  1. Some deacons don’t take responsibility.
  2. Some members think elders should know about and be in charge of everything.

How Can You Improve?

1. To help deacons grow in more effective ministry, work with them individually.

Don’t treat everyone the same. Some need teaching and managing. Others need supervision. Some need freedom. Determine where a person is in his leadership. Give him or withhold from him what he needs to grow.

This is delicate. Often a leader had rather do it himself than suffer the tension of watching someone do it slower with less expertise. That continues an immaturity cycle. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.

One mistake good leaders make is doing too much. General rule: don’t do for someone else what they can do for themselves. [tweetthis] The solution for doing too much is defect in place: don’t run away and don’t rush in to rescue.[/tweetthis]

Give deacons permission to fail or perform differently from how you would do it.

2. Different people have different perceptions of the function of shepherds.

Just because people expect elders to know and do everything doesn’t mean elders have to do it. Most doctors don’t cook meals and empty bedpans in the hospital. They aren’t too good to do those things but they have other things to do.

[tweetthis]One suggestion for elders: refuse to know how to operate the thermostat.[/tweetthis]

If members continue to approach elders for information and action in ministries led by deacons, it’s probably because they’re getting something from those transactions. Elders give the information or say, “I’ll check on that for you.” They could declare ignorance about something in a deacons’ area. Or they might say, “That’s Joe’s ministry. He’ll help you. Here’s his phone number.”

Again, the solution is defect in place.

When the Greeks approached the apostles about neglected widows, the apostles didn’t feel guilty. They didn’t think they were poor leaders because this happened to these good sisters (Acts 6:1-7).[tweetthis]The apostles replied it would be wrong for them to go grocery shopping.[/tweetthis]

They instructed the group to solve the group problem. The apostles continued doing what they were charged to do.

3. If a situation is chronic, it’s because everybody likes it the way it is better than what it would take to change it.

But it can change.

Get the information.

Find the motivation.

Endure the pain.

Enjoy the benefits!

How do you decline the work of others so you may do your work better?
Please comment below.

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6 thoughts on “Helping Deacons Deak:

  1. Jerry, thank you for constantly introducing the elephant(s) in the room, in a loving way, and offering practical advice. May your readership increase for the good of the kingdom, Lord willing.

  2. Good elders and deacons—all good leaders know how to delegate and actually do it. The payoff is huge for them and for the entire church. Jerrie, thanks, again for another practical article.
    Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

  3. My motto in business is “Do less & communicate more!” Leaders do that well, and is why we are accused of not doing anything. As an elder, I am OK with that, because stuff gets done when we do less, yet communicate more.