I’m reminded of my elementary school days when I was going through D.A.R.E., Drug Abuse Resistance Education. The big learning of that program was to just say no! I’d like to start a new program: Y.A.R.E., Yes Abuse Resistance Education.
See if this doesn’t ring a bell: You’re sitting in your ministry office trying to catch up on emails. You’re trying to catch up because you have too many things on your plate. In walks __________ (fill in the blank of a person likely to walk in your office). This person asks you for a favor. “Would you mind doing ____________ (fill in the blank with a ministry project)?” Now, what is your typical response?
If you are like me, your typical response would be yes. (It could be “sure” or “okay,” but then the acrostic would be S.A.R.E. or O.A.R.E. We know Y.A.R.E. makes more sense : ). Why do we say yes in ministry? Here are a few reasons:
- Guilt: “How do I say no to a good thing? It’s ministry. It’s for God. I should always say yes.”
- Unrealistic sense of time: “Sure! I have plenty of time to do that. I’ll just work 14 hour days. I don’t have to go home and spend time with my wife and kids. It’ll be fine!”
- Lack of specifics: “I have no idea what you really want me to do, but sounds easy enough. Sure.”
- Lack of priorities: “My main ministry is not as important as this new project. I’ll do it!”
I joke… a little. If I am to be a good leader in ministry, I have to recognize the need to say no. There are an infinite amount of projects I could do. All good things. But I cannot do them all. Here’s what I have done that help me determine whether I should just say no!
- Listen to God’s voice, not guilt. I believe guilt is not a function of God. However, when an opportunity does come up, take time to listen to the voice of God. What is God saying about this new project? This allows me to have God’s interests in mind as I say yes or no.
- Manage the calendar well. The better I manage it, the better sense I have of the time required to get the project done. If I don’t really have the time, then I need to be honest and say no. (Read here for more on this topic.)
- Ask for clarity. I say yes too easily before I know all the details that are involved. I soon realize what I thought would be an easy project has turned into something difficult.
- Make sure I know my priorities in rank order. For me, they are family, my main ministry in youth and young adult ministry, and my doctorate work. Everything else falls underneath these items. These can change from time to time, but my family will always be number one.
This is important to me. I have to say no from time to time.