Okay to Say No? Part Deux
Thank you so much for your insight in Part One of this discussion. You’ve all confirmed a lot of my ideas and brought up some interesting new ones. By all means, keep them coming!
Let me share a couple of my own thoughts on this topic.
The point of the chapter I’m writing will be focused on keeping ourselves from having to make these hard decisions in the first place. Personally, there have been many ‘jobs’ within the church I’ve taken on because I felt, wrongly, that a failed ministry would reflect on our effectiveness as leaders. I’ve also started new activities that were true needs but I – wrongly again – considered myself a ‘ministry planter’ and assumed someone else would catch the vision and come take it over once I got it established. (I loved the quote by Adrian Rogers, “A need does not constitute a call.” Good one, Smelling Coffee!) Any number of motivations can leave us in the complicated predicament of laying aside something good to make room to operate within our true giftedness.
Unfortunately, many of us are not in the position for a do-over so we are left wondering how to deal with the the mess we are in.
As a woman in servant leadership, in many ways I agree with Sarah (Life in the Parsonage). In my opinion when the life of a ministry is at stake we should ask: “What purpose does it serve?” If the ministry that will be lost is one that regularly proclaims the name of Jesus and sees people born again as a result, then as bond servants of that Gospel, we have to suck it up and do what’s needed. I have a much easier time stepping down from a role that only serves the Body than one which spreads the news of Christ to unbelievers – even if I like the one that serves the Body best. I personally do not believe, either personally or corporately, that we should ever shrink back from proclaiming the name of Jesus. When I find myself in this position, I claim the words of Galatians 6:8-9: “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I have no doubt the Lord will reward one who soldiers through weariness to spread His Fame.
Now. I hope I’ve not lost any of you yet. If you are still here, let me present one more twist.
Many of you expressed how aggravating it is for people to hide behind the mask of calling when in fact, they just don’t want to work. This can be true for laypeople and ministers. Often, we wear ourselves out in the world so that there’s no energy left for the church. This is a constant struggle for me considering I have four children – three of whom are involved in every sport offered. One of my frequent prayers is for God to place a zeal for His House back in the hearts of men and women. That we would LOOK FORWARD to being there instead of thinking of meeting times as an interruption to our weeks. That we would never equate HARD with NOT MY CALLING. We are all called to make disciples so isn’t it natural that Satan would attack those desires and fatigue us with the thoughts of pouring it out week after week? Yes, our first calling is to our families. But does our vision for our family align with our purpose as believers? Are we teaching our children the importance of Christian service or of play date and ball game attendance?
OUCH. OUCH. OUCH. My feet hurt.
I’m still wrestling back and forth on this one. For now, I’m reading through your comments and praying diligently on how to address this important issue. Obviously, the answer greatly depends upon the situation.
With that said, here’s my not-so-short list of considerations for laying down a specific job or ministry within the church:
1. What steps have been taken to find a replacement? Sometimes general pleas are not enough. Ask God to reveal a candidate and ask them personally.
2. Is the ministry inward or outwardly focused? Be very hesitant to discontinue a true, soul-winning ministry.
3. Consider the pros and cons. Which outweighs the other?
4. If this is a gospel-proclaiming ministry to unbelievers, is “I just don’t want to do this anymore” a good enough reason?
5. Pray, pray, pray. If no one steps up and we’ve determined this ministry can not be let go for the Kingdom’s sake – ask God to renew personal zeal for it. You may not look forward to it now, but often joy is reserved for the morning. I’ve experienced this many times.
6. If this is a ministry that is not an outreach, ask God for the boldness of Apollos. In 1 Corinthians 16:12, Paul said of him, “I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity. “
This verse always makes me cheer (in my best Toby Mac holla), “Yeah, Boy!”. Can you imagine saying no to strong-willed Paul? And yet we are told Apollos was ‘quite unwilling’. I would love to have heard the conversation that Paul would describe this way. Bravo to Apollos for refusing ‘strong urgings’, no matter how imposing the person making the request.
Okay, Round Two of your thoughts…. Just be gentle, okay? :)
I’m printing off your list now!
Good stuff, Lisa ;)
I think another key is to seek wise counsel. I agree that oftentimes people pull out of ministry for the wrong reasons… And, I think submitting our daily/weekly/monthly schedule to the scrutiny of others will help us make a more balanced decision ~ one that is not based on laziness or selfishness or fatigue.
Go, Lisa, go!
This is a great topic, and a vital one, I think for wives in ministry. No where is there as much scrutiny on you as wife, mother, and child of God – I don’t mean this in a negative way, but there are a lot of people who have expectations about your life, family, time, commitments, finances, etc. For some of us, it takes a constant vigilance not to get pulled into doing something just because we think we ‘should’.
God doesn’t need us to do anything. Here’s a shocker – He doesn’t even need us to lead others to Christ. Wow, did I really say that? Yeah, I did. We aren’t necessary to furthering God’s kingdom, He can do that all on His own. Please don’t misunderstand me, we are called to be obedient, called to serve and love others, called to live a life that honors and glorifies Him, called to testify, every opportunity we have, of God’s great love for us and of His Son, Jesus Christ. But I repeat, God doesn’t need us to do anything! We are privileged to serve Him, but the minute we think we should do something because ‘nobody else will’ we should check ourselves for pride. Heart motivation is everything to God. I firmly believe He will bless those who act in obedience to Him. Anything done in our own strength is vain and empty.
Saying ‘no’ should be easy WHEN we are saying ‘yes’ to all the things God does want us to do. Please note that I am not advocating any excuses for not being involved in the ministries of the church, but ‘being’ is much more important than ‘doing’.
You are showing much wisdom for one so young!
I like your summary… I think that it's a pretty good set of guidelines for figuring it out. Reading through your post I had two separate thoughts/question (okay one of each…) My thought first…
We are part of a church now that has been trying to focus more and the staff recently went through Simple Church (A GREAT Book!!!) In conversations, a specific ministry came up that would be a great example to use with your set of questions. We do an annual Christmas production that reaches thousands… we have 10 performances, 1,000 people per performance, the gospel is shared each performance, you get the pictures. BUT… is it effective?!? We have seen that the overwhelming majority of the people that come are Christians from other churchs in the area. We do have decisions made BUT… if you weigh the people, hours, and cost that ministry takes, is there a better way to use those resources and reach those people and more?!? – Just a thought.
Okay, so here's my question. My husband is a FT children's pastor at a larger church. I serve along side him in multiple ways. We are CLOSE to a lead pastor position at a slightly smaller church that would start in about a month & half. As pastor's wifes how do you decide what you get involved with?!? Stephen has always been in a specific ministry and that's where I've served and use my gifts/talents in. How do you decide what to invest in when you have the entire church to choose from… and so that you don't overinvest yourself at church and lose at home? Just curious.
Okay, I am humbled as I read through my comment and realize I spelled A LOT of words wrong, my apologies for those of you it really bothers. I really did graduate. :o)
Lisa, your post is so insightful, so encouraging! So many times as disciples of Christ, we have to break out of society’s traditional mold. Thanks for reminding us to keep our focus on God’s priorities instead of what so easily become ours… Sometimes, things that seem good for us ARE good for us but are not God’s best.
I have a hard enough time prioritizing on my own…I can’t imagine doing so with four children. But God’s grace is sufficent for us all!
Amen! Preach on sista!! Man, this is one of the tough ones. When to say no, when to let go. I guess I feel at times as if me and my family live in a glass bowl of sorts. Everybody always looking in! Thank you so much for your biblical challenge to look at this through the lens of scripture!
I am currently dealing with the whole thing of what others expect of me and from me. I had a woman offer to take my place in the nursery rotation for me to free me up for other things I was laying aside occasionally to do nursery duty. I spoke to the secretary who does the list about this and offered to certainly still be a substitute anytime. As a side note, I think I had already become her default person to call. She would call for me to do nursery during times she knew I had other obligations like teach a youth class! Anyway, she let me know for this coming Sunday Morning, when I was on the schedule for nursery, that the lady who wanted to take my place would be doing just that, taking my place, then she turned right around and asked me to keep the nursery with her that night during evening services.
Okay, I said yes. Any suggestions as to if I was right to do so or not?
Hi Lisa~ I know you’ve moved on to another post, but I keep pondering this one. I just wanted to say that I think these guidelines you’ve laid down are wise, and the wisdom shared from others is so valuable.
The one word that keeps coming back to me as I I’ve prayed through this is “commitment”. The conclusion I’m coming to as I’ve pondered and prayed through this topic is that whether we are in the paid ministry or the lay ministry, we need to keep our commitments (in the strength of the Lord) until the new church year rolls around. Then, if the Lord leads us to commit for another season, we can do that with joy. If He doesn’t lead us to continue, we can let it go with some sort of peace. Make sense?
I think the book you are writing will be a much needed resource. May the Lord bless you in that work.
Lisa — great list. I’m praying for a replacement and I’m asking God to reveal that person to me.
Thanks for this.
I know this is burried in your blog now, but I was out of town and couldn’t answer until now. I think, as everyone else has said, that your list is a good one and very thought-provoking. I wanted to make a bit of a segway and talk about team ministry as another way of addressing VIMs. In our church we have noticed that VIM seem to go better and last longer when you have a team leading the VIM (team being more than one; could be two).
Thinking about why this seems to work well, the following ideas came to mind:
1. It’s biblical; when Jesus sent “the twelve” out to minister, he did not send them alone (Mark 6:7). Paul travels with another, usually Barnabas but later Timothy and others.
2. Two or more can support each other. When one is discouraged, the other(s) can encourage and pray for their co-leader.
3. The ministry is built on a firm foundation. More than one perspective and more than one set of gifts contribute to the building and maintenance of the VIM. These differing perspectives and gifts allow the ministry to “speak” potentially to a wider audience, and the leadership team can feel like they are utilizing their talents to help this VIM without undue focus on perceived inadequacies.
4. There is rest. With more than one person supporting the VIM, each can have a period of rest and recuperation without the VIM suffering
5. There is a larger pool of willing volunteers. When people are approached with a team situation, they are more likely to say yes since they would not have to shoulder the entire burden by themselves.
Anyway, just some thoughts on a different way of considering “no” or “yes.” I do think there is a season for “no.” It is true that many people rely on others to fill the void for them, and if some of the usual suspects actually say no, perhaps new life will be breathed into ministry because someone else had the courage and conviction to say “yes!”
Good luck on the book!