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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Fine Art of Saying No


We walked into our first post-seminary ministry position with confidence, ready to serve. We had a one-year-old and a U-Haul full of mostly second-hand furniture.

Because he was one of five ministers at the church, my husband’s responsibilities were fairly clear. He had to fill in for other leaders at times, but he knew where he fit in the structure and service of the church body.

Not so for me. Who was I in this new place? What was I to do?

Before long, several different individuals tried to answer those questions for me. I should teach a pre-school class. I should be in the choir. I should lead a morning Bible study. The requests kept coming, and I knew that saying “yes” to all of them would have meant suicide for my existing roles as wife and mother. So for the most part, I very graciously said “no.”

I’m not an incredibly self-confident person. In fact, I hate it when people think negatively of me. Every time, I had to work up the nerve to decline. This was my process. I pray it helps you determine where to invest your time and energy when you face similar requests.

1. Determine your identity before you go. Think about your gifting, skills, and experience. While God might call you to something completely new, it’s more likely you’ll find your fit within familiar bounds.

2. Evaluate your existing commitments. Your possible roles as a mother, a wife, an employee, etc. are completely valid and require large chunks of your energy. And let’s don’t forget your own spiritual well-being; that takes time. You also need to rest occasionally. Envision how this new opportunity will fit into your life. Be realistic about your superwoman status.

3. Don’t let someone else give you a guilt trip. A need does not equal a calling. It’s easy to confuse a big need in your church with a calling for you to meet that need. Pray about each offer, considering your prior commitments. If God leads you to say “no,” ask for the strength to do it.

4. Don’t give yourself a guilt trip. Even if the other person doesn’t make us feel guilty, we can lay that burden on ourselves. Remember someone served in that position before you arrived…or the church operated without it. If God intends your church to do/have that ministry, He is also calling someone to fill it. Pray for that person to step up and give yourself a break.

For me, I learned I could manage one big thing, such as leading a children’s group, and a couple of small things that didn’t require preparation, such as being a greeter or sharing my testimony at Upward games.

It took a while for me to learn how I fit in that first church body. They were (still are!) a special bunch of people, and I will always be grateful for the freedom they gave me to discover who I was as a minister’s wife and then to live in that discovery. If I had overburdened myself with church responsibilities, I doubt I would feel the same way.


About the author:

Carole Sparks is passionate about God’s Word—about how it can change our everyday lives! After years of globetrotting, she now lives, learns, and loves (plus a good bit of writing) in the hills of East Tennessee. Connect with Carole through her website, http://carolesparks.com or her blog, http://notaboutme1151.wordpress.com.

You can also find Carole on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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