Have you ever said yes to something, just to realize a few short days later that you should have said no? I have.
Early in my ministry career, I was invited to be one of the lead director’s for a big youth retreat that took place every summer. I had just experienced this retreat for the first time. I had no idea how the retreat was organized or what work went into it. All I knew is that it was an awesome experience for me and all the young people that attended.
Shortly after my first experience with this retreat, I was asked to help. I said yes almost immediately. I didn’t ask any questions. I had no idea how much time the project would take or even what specific tasks I had to complete. I was really excited and I said yes! (Some smart leader invited me to volunteer while I was on the famous retreat “high.”)
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that this was not going to be a good fit. I was overwhelmed by the task and I procrastinated. The leadership role was not at all what my strength was and I dreaded every moment we met as a team. The main reason I stuck with it is because I had made a commitment and I was going to follow through.
As the retreat started, the part that I was responsible for was less than good. Actually, it was somewhere between poor and average. And everyone knew it.
The sad part was that it was not as awesome of a retreat experience as it could have been for the 200 young people that were there.
Lesson learned: I need to know when to say “no.”
That’s really hard for ministry leaders because we don’t want to disappoint people. I had to recognize when it was appropriate for me to say “no.” Here are the rules I follow when I’m given an option to say “yes” or “no.”
- Is what I’m being asked to do in my strength zone? If it is not, I’m likely to say no.
- Do I feel guilty about saying no? If so, I need to say no. I don’t believe for a second that guilt is from God, nor is guilt helpful. If I say “yes” out of guilt, I’m not going to be happy doing that project. In fact, I’m going to grow a sense of bitterness and resentment towards the person that asked me to help.
- Do I fully understand what I am being asked to do? There are many times when I don’t have all the details about what I’m being asked to help with. What’s the time commitment? What skills are needed? What are the specific tasks I need to accomplish? Who am I going to be working with? If any of these questions are unanswered, I need to either get the answers or say no. If the person asking me to help does not have all the answers, then I definitely say no.
- Does the time I spend on this project take me away from working on a better project? There are good things and there are great things. The quote, “Good is the enemy of great,” is very true. There are many times I need to say no to good things so I can focus on saying yes to the great things. I cannot adequately do all the good things AND all the great things I want to do in my life.
Question: How do you know when it is time to say “no”?