As a pastor I say yes…a lot.
Yes, I will pray for you. Yes, I will counsel you. Yes, I will officiate your wedding. Yes, I will visit you in the hospital. Yes, I will attend your birthday party.
I’m in ministry to serve and to be a blessing. I genuinely want to help in any way I can.
But I’m learning that I need to say “no” more often.
The challenge for me, and a lot of pastors, is that we are recovering “people pleasers.” It’s hard for us to disappoint people. We want to meet their expectations, and we want them to like us.
It’s here that our ego often gets in the way. We like being needed.
I’ll never forget walking around Disney Land with my family while counseling someone on the phone. My wife was glaring at me and my kids were trying to get my attention. For 30 minutes I talked with the person in need. After the call my wife asked, “Don’t you ever get a day off?”
I foolishly fired back, “I’m the pastor, and they needed my counsel.”
I should have said no. At least, not right now. The issue wasn’t an emergency. It could have waited until later. There were others who could have served the need.
Maybe you identify. You are a bit burned out because you won’t say no. Maybe your family is suffering because you aren’t setting good boundaries between family and ministry.
Here’s what I’m learning about saying no…
1. Saying no allows me to focus on my priorities.
Years ago, a ministry coaching encouraged me to identify my 5-7 lead pastor priorities. These were tasks that were critical for me to do in my role, task that no one else could/should do. He told me there would not be more than seven. It was one of the best assignments I have ever completed. In my next elder meeting, I shared the results with my team. They agreed with my conclusions and encouraged me to focus on these seven tasks.
Does this mean that's all I do? No, but I'm always aware of where I need to spend the bulk of my time.
2. Saying no gives me margin.
There have been seasons of life where I felt as if I had time for nothing but ministry. Sure, there are times like Easter and Christmas when our workload increases, but in those times I have to pull back in other areas.
Saying no helps me keep life in balance. It gives me space to breathe. It allows me the time necessary to be a good husband and father.
I hate disappointing people by saying no, but I know I'm a better pastor (and person) by creating margin in my life.
3. Saying no allows others to use their gifts.
By saying yes all the time, I'm actually robbing other people the opportunity to use their gifts. God has gifted our congregation in amazing ways. We have people who are better at administration than me. Some are better at counseling. Others are better at hospital visitation.
I'm hindering the growth and health of our congregation when I refuse to release others to serve.
4. Saying no doesn't always mean I can't do anything.
I may not be able to meet their request, but I may be able to suggest an alternative. For example, meeting someone at night may not work because it would take me away from my family, but I can offer to meet at another time. I may be able pray with them on the phone, encourage them to meet with our staff or elders, or point them towards another resource.
5. Saying no keeps my ego in check.
I'm not the Savior. I'm not Superman. I can't help everyone or meet every need. I'm human. I'm only in ministry by God's grace. The church has never been mine. It has always belonged to Jesus.
When I say no, it's a reminder that I have limits. It helps me remember that while I want to serve and help, it's not all about me.
One final thought....When I say yes to something, at the same time, I'm saying no to something else. Staying focused on my priorities helps me make the right decision.
Question: In which areas are you struggling to say "no"? Share your comment on Facebook.
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Hi! I'm Loren Hicks. I am follower of Jesus, a husband, a father, a friend, and for the past