Recently I attended a Theology of the Body session. The speaker was addressing chastity and stated “If you can’t say ‘No’, your ‘Yes’ means nothing”. It’s time we had an honest conversation about how necessary this word is for someone in ministry. I am a people pleaser and struggle to say no. This often leads to me and the ministry being spread thin. Saying no is vital. This blog seeks to share why and how to say ‘no’ effectively.

In ministry we find ourselves with many opportunities to serve. Many suggestions for the ministry come our way too. We can get buried. ‘No’ is the key word that can make our ministry most effective. It allows us to communicate that some things are vital to the ministry now and require attention and energy. Saying ‘No’ does not mean that the other items are not good or valuable, it simply acknowledges limits. Priorities must be set to meet the vision of ministry as it continues to grow, ‘No’ defends this.

I’ve heard it said, “Do few things and do them well ”. Those you serve deserve the highest quality ministry you can provide. God also wills this. Here are a few ways to say ‘No’ without burning bridges or hurting feelings.

Share the Vision of Ministry: Sharing the vision of ministry with your pastor and parish gives them the big picture or road map of where your ministry is at, what is seeks to achieve and why certain things might not fit into that vision.

No does not mean never: Ministries grow overtime. Just because an idea was shot down this year does not mean that it is a bad idea or that it will never be used. Remember it is easier to turn a no into a yes than the other way around.

No provides new opportunities: There are times when one ministry becomes a well that everyone returns to again and again. “Why not put (insert your ministry here) in charge of this?” or “(Those you serve) are welcome to this event, so you need to be on the planning team.” While this is great, it can tax a ministry. The other side of this reality is that there are ministries that are not being approached that may be eager for the opportunities that you say no to. Pair your no with a suggestion for someone or some ministry that may do great with the request.

Discern: When it seems like a yes would fit, take some time to pray about it. Ask for a day, week or semester to take it to prayer to see how this request would fit into your life and ministry schedule. If pressured for a decision without proper time to discern, then the answer is always ‘No’.

Reassure: Remind those making the requests or demands that God has a plan for those served by the request. If you are confident that God is not calling you to it that means that God is either calling someone else to it or has another way to serve the needs. Sharing this will focus people on the bigger picture and will redirect misguided frustration that sometimes comes when people don’t get their way.

Your challenge for the week is to practice this: For the next 2 days, say ‘No’ at least 4 times. Then for the following 5 days, say ‘No’ or ask for some time to discern for every opportunity that comes your way. (Unless it’s ice-cream or bacon). It will be difficult at first, but soon people will see you as a super hero for the mission you are called to. Defend God’s will for your life and ministry with the Power of No!

Comment below with your tips on how to say know or tell me what the hardest “No” you ever had to say was and why you’re glad you said it.

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Chris Bartlett