When Is It Okay To Say No?
Okay, put on your church hats. I have a few questions as a follow up to the Ministry Survey on Saying No.
As I’ve been working on this book chapter, it occurs to me that no isn’t always possible – or is it?
For example, ministry wives, what would you do?
Let’s just say your church has a very important ministry that is vital in your community. Currently, you and your husband lead that ministry but as your schedules have become increasingly busy, you realize you aren’t giving it your all and it’s time for someone else to take over.
Suppose you make an appeal many times over and no one steps forward. Do you let this Very Important Ministry go or do you suck it up and do it anyway because to drop it would be a great detriment to the testimony of your church? Have you ever been in this situation?
Has a Very Important Ministry of your church ever been discontinued for this purpose? Honestly, did you blame your pastor?
I really need some input here girls. I have to be honest and say I’m a little stuck on this one….
If the ministry is vital, and without you, it wouldn’t exist, I say it’s one of those situations that requires us to just “suck it up” and do it with a servant’s heart.
Our childrens ministry on Wed. nights is sorta like that. It’s not my first love, but it is vital, and for now, the Lord has said to me…you do it, I’ll give you the grace.
Of course it depends on if the Lord is directing it or if it’s just our own preference to do something else :)
I don’t know if that makes any sense!?!
My mama (pastor's wife) is here at my house today so I asked her this question. She & daddy always just keep doing whatever needs to be done. They have been in that situation many times. I'm in a rush right now & can't think of a specific example, but a lot of times it's simply been that if ANYTHING got done we (my family) did it. Our church is small in number so that may make a difference.
Well, I think that from someone not in leadership in the church, that sometimes there are seasons for certain ministries, and certain people to lead them for a certain amount of time.
We recently had to lose a very great leader because of finances in the church, but he is standing on the promise that God knows what He is doing….
I think it also depends on the age of the church too…how many are apart, and how diverse it is…
My Pastor’s wife is a Elementary school teacher, and she used to teach the Women’s studies, but she had to step down from that, and focus more on her career, and her family. God just brought her to a different plain.
Hope that helps:)
I’m coming at this from the layperson’s perspective. I was part of a church plant for which I started the women’s ministry. It started to totally consume my life and, along with everything else I had going on in addition to raising my family, got to be way too much. The woman I had recruited as my co-leader, had recently moved and there was no one positioned to take it over. Even after repeated pleas for at least some help, no one came forward. I finally had to step down.
When this happened, the other women really expected our pastor’s wife to take it over but she didn’t. I certainly never expected her to (and probably would’ve tried to talk her out of it), as she wore so many hats that you really couldn’t even see her face anymore! So, on my part there wasn’t any disappointment or animosity toward her.
However, while no one else expressed anger or disappointment outright, I really sensed it – in both me and the pastor’s wife. The ministry sat dormant for almost TWO YEARS until some women finally came forward and each took some of the responsibility.
I’ve always been somewhat torn with what was really the right thing in this situation – should one of us have continued to preserve the ministry, or was it good for it to sit until the passion was raised up in others to do their part? I feel certain that they never would’ve stepped forward if we’d kept at it.
I really think that sometimes the “no’s” of pastor’s wives and laypeople in leadership, are the open door for other people to finally get their feet wet and become involved.
Hi~ I’m very new in this blog-world, and a friend (minister’s wife) told me that she enjoys reading your posts… and now, I do too. :-)
I am a minister’s wife, but for the last 8 years, my husband has served in a ministry business – so we’re now very involved lay-people. We’ve experienced both sides of your delima.
Being removed from the heavy responsibility of church ministry has given me a different perspective. Ten years ago, I would have known the answer “in my heart”, but it would have been much harder to do.
My thoughts: If the burden for this “very important ministry” is being carried only by the minister, and other more heavy ministry responsibilites are pressing to the point that he can’t do it all, and no lay people are rising to the call to fill the “vim”, then the Lord may be closing the door on (or suspending for a time) this “vim”.
In church ministry, it is hard to say “no” when you know that “If I don’t do this, it won’t get done.” I filled many holes in ministry for that very reason. Then one day, I heard Dr. Adrian Rogers say “a need does not constitute a call.”
This was very freeing to my husband and to me. We started praying for the Lord to show us where in the body He would work through us, then, as hard as it was, we stopped doing things “because no one else would do them”. Instead, we prayed for the Lord to raise up people to fill those particular parts of the body (and prayed that the lay people He was calling would be obedient and surrender to that call.) If no one came forward after a time of prayer and congregational pleas, AND if the Lord was leading us to step out of that ministry, we knew that the Lord was closing that door (or at least suspending the ministry) for a time.
We’ve experienced this with “bus ministry” and “childdren’s church” ministry – both in two different churches. Vital as they were, and as hard as it was, we had to surrender to trust the Lord with the reputation of His body and testimony of His church when that “vim” was no longer in operation.
These are just my thoughts and experiences. I’m trusting the Lord to shed light on His answer to this question for you and your readers who find themselves in the same boat, and just prayed for you all as He does…
I believe the danger lies in ourselves. In our sin nature. What is our motivation to start up, continue with, or take over a new ministry? Do we have a clear vision of how it will affect our lives? Our family? Our career?
I think the other question is have we sincerely prayed over the opportunity and sought His guidance and calling?
It is so hard to be women, serving the Lord. Is our service to the Lord or to others? It should first and foremost be to the Lord, not men!
I am learning to say NO. It’s hard work! I desire to serve in so many ways, but right now, my ministry is to my husband and children!
This is not really what you’re looking for, but one of my husband’s mentors (who is an evangelist) once told us that he’d often regretted saying yes, but he’d never regretted saying no. I have kept that in my mind for the last few years and it has helped me, a chronic people pleaser, have the guts to say no when necessary.
Obviously prayer would enter here. I would pray that God would raise up someone.
I would purposely approach individuals and ask them to fill the role, offering to mentor them in it to begin.
If I was turned down by specific people time and time again (rather than simply a mass appeal that no one responds to), I would begin to wonder if it truly was vital.
Vital in God’s eyes? Then I would trust He would either equip me to carry on or He would bring someone else in to do the job better than I could. If no one could do it, then it can’t be that vital and it is time to let it go.
This is my first time posting, but I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and I LOVE it! My husband and I are in full time youth ministry, and I am always tempted to squeeze one more commitment into our lives. An incredibly wise mentor of mine once told me, “Rachel, God could call ANYBODY to do _______(whatever ministry for which I’m about to volunteer). But He has called you, and only you to be Danny’s wife.” Her words have since helped me better prioritize my life and carefully consider things that could negatively affect my family.
Speaking from a layperson perspective, over a year ago I stopped teaching Sunday school something I’d done for almost ten years most of which I also served as SS superintendent. It got to the point where I was burnt out and no matter how many pleas I made no one else really wanted to “step up” on a consistent basis.
After much prayer I decided that I was actually doing my class a disservice by continuing and I stepped down and you know what, others stepped up.
I think there are times when God calls us to do things even when we don’t want to but there are times when he gives us permission to say no although others think we should say yes. The important thing is to talk to him about it and then listen to what he has to say.
Hope this helped.
It would depend on the reason for dropping the very important ministry. First of all, what in my “schedule” is keeping me from leading this ministry? Also, what does God say? Is He still leading me to continue this ministry, or is He moving me out in order to move someone else in? Is He moving beyond this ministry altogether, or is it still vital to bringing people to Him? I guess I’d really have to weigh priorities on this one.
Sorry the answer is vague, but it would depend on circumstances.
I think you really has to go to the Lord with this – if He says it’s time for you to give it up then you need to do that. — Even if there’s no one willing to take it on – sometimes something can be a great thing – but if it’s not in God’s timing then we may need to wait for his leading…
Here’s my no bars held answer: I think that when the LORD lays it on your heart to do so–say YES…all other times NO (or not yet) must be the answer. It cannot be blessed, I think, under any other circumstances.
I would say Hooray for the brave and truthful ministers!! I am so tired of people saying YES, ’cause others think they OUGHT to. Well maybe the others OUGHT to, if they are so excited about it.
Here’s my example: We have a dear friend who HATES serving at VBS and has done so for many years and every year despises it. I think the kids deserve a leader, who wants to be there and be a blessing. I think the person leading should be let off the hook–it’s not her calling.
I agree with Holly – also here’s my take. Our church had a program of cooking hot meals for homeless people on Saturdays. They served them in a nearby park. Well due to different laws and permits that were needed they decided that it was not cost effective to continue the program as it was. They have redeveloped the program to help provide staple groceries for people that are low income and down on their luck instead. It wasn’t easy but I think the redirection was a more efficient choice. Hope that helps.
I believe there are times when we say "no". The same people do it all in churches and sometimes we need to shake things up a little. I never accept any responsibility right off the bat. I always tell them I need to pray about it; talk to my husband. And that is what I do. If it is going to take me away from my family more than what I am; that's going to usually be a no. I say yes to many things that I only feel the Lord leading me to do. Once we get over pleasing "people" and answering only to the "Lord" it can help clear alot of things up for us. My main role is "Tim's wife, Brittney & Ashlyn's Mom" then those areas of service fall behind that.
As a pastor’s wife I have felt the pressure of this situation. And my answer to your question is yes and no! I truly believe that when you seek God, He will provide. If God’s call on my life was outside of this particular ministry in need and I truly felt like God was asking me to say “No,” I would. Most likely God is asking someone else to obey His leading in their life and get involved. Without me saying “no” that other person wouldn’t have been blessed by saying “yes!” And going back to the point earlier, if it’s a God ordained ministry – He’ll make it work, with or without me. Having said that, our call can change throughout the years as God grows and develops our character. So what was once a “yes” may now be a “no.” Am I making any sense?!?!?!
From a Lay Perspective:
Our associate pastor spoke to this subject yesterday (or I can see how it would relate). He was using the example of Elijah running scared from Jezebel (1 Kings 19). Elijah was exhausted…he was running, which is not what God wanted him to do.
When we are running around, doing things God hasn't called us to do, we are ineffective. In fact, we are failures. Even if the VIM looks successful, we are failing if it's not in God's will for us. Our AP told us about a recent study that showed that there was no correlation between how busy a church is & how effective it is. In fact, the busier a church is, the less effective it is.
I know that many in the congregation would expect the Pastor & his wife to step in & take care of it, but that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. To me, a Pastor's willingness to say no is a sign of being in tune with what God wants. I am blessed by seeing my Pastor put his family above ministry (NOT above God). His family is happier for it, and he's able to go out & minister in those areas he's called to be part of.
Hope this helps!
I hope this does not come off as too whiny. But I get really tired of people saying no, because it is not something they are “called” to or they cannot fit it into their busy schedule. Trust me, I understand that there are times that no is the appropriate response, but sometimes there are times when you will be inconvenienced by ministry. There is a story in the bible about David going to buy land for an altar (2Sam 24:18), basically saying a sacrifice should cost something. And we would not be having this discussion if more people would understand that we all are the body and we are all called to ministry and when one part is over-tired we all suffer. As a PW, I get tired of being the fill-in-the-gap person, but I ask God to give me the energy to keep going and to bring others in to fill in the gap. I hope this makes sense and does not come across too negative.
I hope I’m not repeating what someone has already said (I didn’t read the prior comments), but I think that if it’s a ministry that God has called you and your husband to, unless He has chosen to call you away from it and made that very clear, you must stick with what He has called you to. The problem is taking on so many other outside “things” that you can’t do right the one thing or things He has called you to or give it the attention you should.
What He calls you to, He equips you for. He hasn’t called us to do everything. We just choose to do, sometimes, more than He wants us to, even if they are good things. We’re not called to do all of the good things that come our way, just the God things that He has chosen from His will.
I think if no one comes forward, and you’re the two over it, and God has called you to do it from the beginning, you need to clear your plate elsewhere and do what God has called you to do. God is honored and glorified by you honoring your commitment and you’re setting a good example and testimony for the church and the community. Everybody benefits.
If it was a job that you needed help with, on the other hand, again, if it’s a ministry of His, He will supply all of your needs (whether that’s in the form of people to help out or otherwise) to get the job accomplished. It’s His after all. He gives us the strength, energy, resources, funding, and people to get His job done.
There is my little two cents worth.
Hope you can get through the chapter you’re working on with some good information others have given you in comments.
I’m torn… I’m a firstborn people pleaser married to a minister… not a good combo at times. Over the years though I have learned to filter, with a lot of help from my hubby. However, we balance each other out.
I think there are times that the same people do get guilted into continually serving. I was on staff as pt secretary at our church until 4 months ago and that made for double-guilt/’obligation’ because I had my responsiblities and the wife responsiblities.
As far as letting a ministry go I’d have to say that if you, your husband, and possibly a trusted mentor, can come to the same thought process and it all leads to you are not supposed to be involved or lead it, then let it go… If it’s supposed to be led, someone will step up. If not, let it die.
However, i must agree with someone above… I do get tired of hearing from people at church that aren’t serving anywhere that they don’t have time… (it’s more the way they say it, looking down their nose and implying guilt on me because I serve in too many ways, tone…)
Anyways, I rarely make a move/decision with stephen because he’s a perfect compliment to my nature/personality…
I think you hit the key issue Lisa with “you realize you aren’t giving it your all”. That realization should be followed with prayer as others have said. If it is a sin issue then pray that God would change your heart. If God reveals that He is moving you somewhere else, by all means GO and don’t look back. No ministry should be done by a person consistently not doing their best. It isn’t good for them and it isn’t good for the people in the ministry.
A Layperson’s imput.
God is soooooo big. His purpose will be accomplished with or with out us.
God doesn’t call the equiped, He equips the called.
Don’t know if that helps or not, but I think you have to make hard choices sometimes. God first, family second, church third. The way I look at it. Your kids only grow up once. Your marriage is forever (as long as you live) Ministries come and go.
I think for a season…to step in and continue filling the gap is ok….we have done it as AP and SP….and it almost burned us out in that area and people were not that appreciative of it. Kind of made me bitter against spending myself–in entirety—on something just to go unappreciated. But thats me.
I needed to read this today–not in regards to a church ministry at all, but with my Girl Scouts. No one will help me! And I can NOT do it alone. Do I quit, do I make threats to quit? I’m not sure.
But I am sure that I need to be praying about it. Which I am. But waiting is sure hard!
Some ministries are meant “for a season,” too…it’s o.k. for them to subside. I can think of the one ministry that our church does very well: missions. We’d almost sent everyone on the team into the field, and no one else was stepping up. Finally, the team was rebuilt, and it’s still going well. Other ministries that were wonderful have not been maintained, but weren’t so clearly our calling. Ministry leaders almost have to have a response “practiced,” such as “We hated to drop our involvement in the ____ ministry, but we felt the LORD was calling us to focus on _______.” SMILE :)
If I were the pastor’s wife I would suck it up and try to do everything. Then again, that is what I normally do.
I have been the “suck-it-up-and-do-it-myself” type, which may be part of the reason for my burnout and subsequent resignation!!
I think it creates a cycles, though, since people know you’ll do it and thus don’t feel the need to step up, then you have to do things in the future yourself as well, etc…
I could never quite get everything the way I wanted it because there was so much on my plate. To make matters worse, I had a staff-parish team and pastor who took me for granted and didn;’t support me as they should have.
Interesting question, Lisa.
I was talking about a similar scenario with my dad recently. He’s been a senior pastor of mid- to large-sized churches for 35+ years now. His thought was that, if no one steps up, the ministry should be shut down. The staff shouldn’t be expected to do everything. The church is a BODY, and really, having a paid staff is a fairly new idea.
His viewpoint sparked all kinds of thoughts in my head. I love that about him. He has a a great mix of wisdom and experience.
(By the way, I loved Amanda’s comment. I’m going to tuck that one away.)
This has been a topic I have struggled with. Our church is very small. Whether it is right or wrong, I will usually stay leading the ministry. Example, I have put out a call and asked individuals to help with sunday school but no one wants to get involved. I love working with the kids but I do sunday school every week, plus lead the worship. Once in a while I would love to hear one of my husband’s sermons! I do feel that sunday school is too important to let go. I keep praying God will prompt someone to help out, even just once a month. I am encouraged reading these comments and there is a lot of wisdom in them.
Someone explained it to me this way. If you are not getting joy from it, then you shouldn’t be doing it. You might be stealing someone else’s joy as well, by doing it. God might be calling someone else to do that job. We CAN do too much church work, it happens, people just don’t like to talk about it!
Lisa — thank you for asking this one. I’m in this very place — do I let it go or do I keep doing it. I had a dear friend tell me, Mary, as long as you’re doing it there’s no need for another to step up.
I’m going to read the responses.
Just from my experience as a children’s minister’s wife: sometimes when we are exhausted and aren’t “giving our all” to a specific ministry, God is still giving His all and He fills in our gaps. Not to say that it is okay to not give your all, but sometimes all you have left to give is only a small portion of what YOU feel needs to be given. Fortunately, God sees the effort and blesses it. I’d say, if you have prayed and definitely feel God wants the ministry to continue, then you must continue the ministry and, when God sees fit, He will bring the right person(s) along to step in. Sometimes He just steps back for a moment to see if we will reach our hand out to Him and trust Him to bring us relief!