It was a blistering hot day hiking in the Tetons. Keeping up with my sons and friends who were in better shape than me was quite a task. There were times they would get ahead of me and, in goodwill, wait till I caught up with them … and then we would all take off again together… BUT WAIT A MINUTE… “I’m not ready to go” … “I appreciate that you waited for me, and enjoyed a time of rest, but I didn’t get to rest.” … “I need to stay here longer.” … “Give me some of that water and you do some jumping jacks while kick back on a rock and chill a bit.”
Their intentions were good, but they didn’t realize that while they had some opportunity to rest, I was actively at work. Do you ever feel like that? Those moments when people assume that since they have some downtime that you’re always available?
“It’s a holiday week, nobody’s working” … and now everyone wants to get together.
Don’t get me wrong, we do what we do because we love people and we certainly appreciate their desire to connect with us. However, I find that if I don’t learn how to put some proper boundaries in place around my time, that it tends to get invaded and I don’t have enough of it left to accomplish the things I need to do as well. I know we all feel the pressure of wanting to be available to everyone, but also knowing you just can’t.
As I look back I’ve discovered that there were times that I would say yes to so many good things, that I was forced to say no to some of the best things. When I realized that every yes that I made required a no somewhere else, I made sure all my yeses were chosen correctly!
It’s hard to say no sometimes. People get disappointed. As leaders, we hate to disappoint people, but when we realize that every yes means a no to someone else, the people who are usually disappointed are the people closest to us. We justify it in our minds by saying, “they know us; they’ll understand.”
As things begin to open up all around us and people are looking to set more meetings, do more ministry events, plan more special gatherings, you might find yourself like I did on the top of the Teton’s thinking, “I’m glad you’re already rested and refreshed and ready to hit the ground running, but I need a break. I’ve been going full tilt during this pandemic and I need to slow down.”
Added to that is the pressure we all feel of relaunching our church – getting people off the couch and into the sanctuary – while maintaining a sensitivity to those who are still vulnerable at this time.
You might find yourself saying, “I can’t keep up with all the demands that are being made of me right now. And let me be clear, you can’t!
So you have to say no to some things, so you can say yes to the best things! Effective leaders know when to say yes and when to say no, otherwise they are led by the loudest voices around them.
Look how Jesus addresses this when he preached on the mount:
Matthew 5:37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
Clearly Jesus is talking about the importance of being people who follow through on commitments, who’s word can be trusted. This is important because as disciples of Jesus and leaders of His church, we are to be a reflection of a God who keeps His Word.
But if we say yes to everything, it’s impossible to follow through on it all and people are going to be disappointed and we’re not going to reflect the faithfulness of our Lord.
Never commit to something the moment you’re asked. Always create some space between the emotion of the ask and your answer, between the relationship you have with the asker and your response and then ask yourself a couple of questions:
1. WHAT’S MY CAPACITY?
Sometimes we think we’re far more capable than we really are. Wanting to do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it. It’s important to be realistic about what you can do before committing. Saying “yes” means I’ve considered what is being asked of me and I have the capacity in my schedule to complete it. It’s great to bring someone else in on your decision too. Someone who’s not just going to tell you what you want to hear but will be honest enough to say – you don’t have the time in your schedule. So before you say yes, take your superhero cape off and ask yourself, “What’s my capacity?”
2. WHAT’S MY MOTIVE?
How many times have you said yes to something because you felt guilty about saying no? Guilt is never a good motive to do anything. It’s not fair to you and it’s not fair to the person asking for something. Am I saying yes to gain favor with someone?
3. WHERE’S THE FINISH LINE?
This is super important to consider before saying yes to something. Does this commitment have an expiration date or am I locked in till Jesus comes? Make sure you get clarity on how long you’re expected to maintain this commitment and determine if its a good fit for you.
4. IS IT IN MY WHEELHOUSE?
Is it something you’re gifted to do and want to do? Don’t make long term commitments to do things God hasn’t given you the tools or desire to do. You’ll frustrate yourself and the people asking. Plus, you’ll keep another leader from stepping up and doing a better job than you!
5. WHAT’S GONNA GIVE?
As stated earlier, every yes means a no to something else. Most Pastors are already at full capacity and so before you take on another thing be sure to identify something that you’re going to let go of in its place. If you don’t, something you might not want to let go of will be lost.
6. DOES GOD WANT ME TO DO THIS?
This should obviously be on the top of the list. He is omniscient, we aren’t! He knows what’s down the road, we don’t. We would do well to take serious the words of James:
James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Things are turning around all over. Anticipate being asked to teach more, create more, meet more, reach more, inspire more, greet more and just DO MORE. Be sure to set some healthy rhythms, healthy boundaries and consider some of these questions before you say yes and run the risk of burning yourself out.
And when you do say yes, do it with all of your heart as an act of worship to God knowing you’ve thought through your decision.