Know When to Say “No”

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”?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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