How to Fire Yourself (part 1)
If you lead in the local church – whether you’re full-time, part-time, paid, or volunteer – it’s time that you ask for your own resignation.
Before you start penning that first “I’m outta here” draft, let me define what I’m not saying: I’m not suggesting that you walk away from your role. I’m not implying that you’re incompetent at what you do. I’m not even insinuating that you’ve lost the spark of passion for your job. No, the reason that I’m suggesting you fire yourself is because you love what you do.
Leaders tend to lead because they’re good at whatever it is they’re leading. While it’s true that some people are branded as “leaders” simply because they have a title, most leaders really do have a capacity for excellence in their roles. Maybe you can confess along with me that you hold onto certain tasks because you believe no one else can perform them as well as you. As leaders, we have created a world of micromanagers, perfectionists, and control freaks. It’s an unsavory and dangerous part of the leader’s life. By protecting every aspect of our role, we ultimately bottleneck the reach and impact of our ministry (perhaps you can clearly identify some of those bottlenecks you’re facing right now).
Could it be that the answer to this problem is found in replacing ourselves? The Apostle Paul wisely reminded the growing congregation at Ephesus that Jesus “personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:11-12, CSB) In other words, our one job as leaders is to work ourselves out of a job. Our role is to help others find their role. Our goal is to equip others as we hand off more and more responsibility. As my own pastor is fond of saying, “When I became a pastor, I got out of the ministry.”
So how do we go about firing ourselves? I think there are five ways:
1. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all.
Leaders have a hard time admitting our own limits. We erroneously believe that we are the ultimate arbiter of ministry effectiveness. We buy the lie that our people expect us to juggle every task around the church. And when we buy those lies, we are well on our way to burnout.
A painful but necessary leadership exercise is to audit our regular tasks. What are we currently doing that we can equip others to do? Whether it’s writing curriculum or sending emails or making hospital visits, where can we bring others alongside us in preparation for an eventual transition of power?
It’s important to recognize that we not only can’t do it all, we shouldn’t do it all. That robs others of the joy of serving and discovering the gifts they’ve been given by the Holy Spirit. God never commanded us to don an “S” on our chests and emerge from our phone booth to save the world. He expects us to raise up others to serve as well.
2. Develop leaders, don’t dump responsibilities.
There’s an easy way to replace yourself: load up your ministry dump truck with the things you don’t want to do, drive over to the home of your unsuspecting successor, and throw the lever which will bury them in their newfound overwhelming role. That’s the easy way, but it’s also the lazy way.
Courageous leaders take the time to patiently invest in and develop other leaders. They don’t find “yes” people and keep pushing tasks towards them as long as they say “yes.” Following that model will burn people out faster than you can say 8th grade boys’ Sunday School teacher.
Rather, we move with intentionality and with great vision. We paint a picture for what leadership looks like. We plan for appropriate next steps, considering that each potential leader starts from a different skill set and experience level. We demonstrate what we want them to replicate.
I originally wrote this article for the April 2018 issue of Facts & Trends magazine.