by Brian Koehn
As General Manager of Portable Church® Industries, I think about ownership more than any other aspect of leadership. Every Monday morning, our team meets to review the previous week and plan for the next one. One of the highlights of these meetings is a recap of any Portable Church® trainings that happened over the weekend. We have heard stories from almost every city, culture, denomination, and economic demographic.
In the retelling of the weekend stories, I’ve noticed that the most effective churches have figured out how to transfer ownership effectively. As a result, their churches consist of excited volunteers, led by empowering leaders. We all have something to learn from the leaders who are effective at transferring ownership and creating partners in their vision.
The first step is to cast the vision. This step gets a lot of press in the church world. We all know that without a vision, the people perish (Prov. 29:18). A vision needs to be communicated. It needs to be clear and compelling. Churches involved in God’s work of redemption inherently have visions that are incredibly compelling. When each team’s role is clearly connected to the core vision of the church – their visions become compelling as well. “We are going to set up in 45 minutes or less.” “Our setup teams will have plenty of energy left over to be engaged with the service and present to visitors.” “Our worship space will point people to God.”
The second step is to set the boundaries. If you are going to turn responsibilities over to leaders and volunteers, you need to be clear on where you end and they begin. For example, “This is your baby now.” “You care more about sound quality than I do. That is why you are the right person for this job, not me!” This step is so critical, and it is where many leaders fail. It is so important not to violate the boundary that you have set. Don’t nag. Don’t control. Don’t micromanage. Those mistakes will destroy a sense of ownership. Once you have agreed on the mechanisms of accountability, you can hold people accountable without violating their boundaries.
The third step is to provide resources. Make sure that delegation comes with the resources necessary to get the job done. This includes training, equipment, time, and money. It can also include processes and access to key people. You can even offer to help, as long as it’s clear that you are not the boss when you step into the other person’s area of responsibility. This step is particularly important early on when the risk of discouragement is high and a person may not know or even just trust that certain resources are available.
The fourth step is to allow failure. Here is where most leaders fail when it comes to transferring ownership. Perhaps we never really wanted to give up control. Perhaps our low self-esteem demands that we jump back in to prove that we do it best. Perhaps failure avoidance is more important to us than healthy delegation. Perhaps we fail to recognize failure for what it is – the last step in a successful transfer of ownership. Perfectionists don’t lead empowered teams. Failure is part of the process. Expect it. How you handle it will cement or destroy the sense of ownership that a person has for their area of responsibility.
The fifth stop is success. Enjoy! There is a difference between renters and owners, between baby-sitters and parents, between stewards and heirs. Jesus talked about the difference between hired hands and shepherds. There is tremendous satisfaction in working with a team that cares as much about accomplishing the vision as you do.