The Big No.


No. Nope. Nada. No Thanks.

Do you know what really stinks?  Being told no over something you are passionate about, or a step you are ready to take.  Most people, when told no, will take it personally.  It will bother us that we are not being allowed to go somewhere or do something because someone else said so.

Kids don’t like it.  When they are told no, they feel like you don’t like them.

Teens don’t like it.  When they are told no, they feel like you are treating them like a child.

Adults don’t like it.  When they are told no, they feel that you are rejecting them or their contribution.

The hardest place to hear no, is in your church.  The place where you want to serve and someone is telling you that you can’t.  It is really, really hard.  How do you process that?  God lays something on your heart and someone is saying NO.  Now what?

Their intentions are usually good… even though they have said no.

I have attended a few churches over the span of my life due to relocating, and I have experienced an assortment of “no” situations.

I remember once volunteering for something, and I was told “No, you already have enough on your plate.”.  I didn’t understand how this person could make that decision for me.  That didn’t seem fair.

Then, there was the time I was given permission to lead a specific event.  I was so excited, spent a ton of time getting the ideas together, only to find out the leader changed her mind.  I was rejected before I even had a chance to prove myself.

Years ago, I volunteered to join a ministry team.  I asked for a specific position and was told that I would be better suited in another.  I scratched my head in confusion, how did this person know what I was good at and what I wasn’t?

I also recall many times in the course of leadership where I had to be the one to say, no.

Let me assure anyone who is reading this… is stinks to hear the words no.  But, it also isn’t exactly fun having to say it either.  No one wants to be the dream dasher.

I’ve had to say no because something wasn’t in the budget.  I had to break the news that someone’s idea for the ministry wasn’t going to happen.  I’ve had to tell someone that we didn’t need any extra volunteers.

What I have learned over the years is that it isn’t the word no that is the problem.  It is usually in our delivery.  It is also in our perception of what no means, if we are on the receiving end.

No, in MOST cases really means…. No, not right now.  But, we fail to express it in this way.  We also fail to receive it this way too.  Miscommunication is at the root of so many confrontations and obstacles in ministry… IT IS RIDICULOUS.

We can all make a better effort when it comes to the word NO, in how we use it and receive it.

We can go along way to clear up communication and avoid assumptions when we:

  • take a moment to explain our decision (even if that is simply acknowledging that you can’t share details, but you have a reason why the answer must be no).
  • instead of reacting, take a moment to respond with a question for clarification on the answer.
  • assume the best about the person delivering the “no”, not the worst.

Finally, for the person who is often in the decision maker… remember this….

If you keep saying no, eventually people stop asking.

This may result in their making decisions WITHOUT your input.  They will move to the “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” stance.  You don’t ever want to be in a place where you don’t know what is happening in your home, ministry, church, or organization.

It also may result in a person who is trying to actively be involved to stop volunteering.   If they keep getting shut down, why bother?  If you have to say no multiple times, you need to be transparent about why.  Is the person not ready to take that position yet?  Be honest, and come up with a plan to get them there.  Do you see a better place for the person?  Share that, explain why.  People want to feel valued and repetitive rejection affirms in their mind that they are not wanted or needed, that they have nothing worthy to contribute.

Also if you find yourself saying no too much, to too many different people, too many times… it may be a moment where you need to do some self evaluation.  Why are you saying no so much?  Are you being to controlling or micromanaging?  Or do you just have an abundance of people who are ready, willing, and able…. just waiting for the word to go.  In the first case, you need to begin to trust those who God has brought into your life and organization.  In the second case, if you have too many people with too many ideas… come up with a plan to deal with that.  Find a place for them to serve.  Put them together if they share common vision and ideas.  You may find what you really have is a team, not a group of individuals, who are ready to serve with your direction.

My husband once said, in response to a request from our daughter:

If we always say no, it loses it’s value.  We have to say yes to some things, even if we are not totally ok with it. That way, when we do have to say no… she knows there is a good reason and she’ll be more apt to accept it.  If we always say no, she won’t ask our opinion or permission anymore.

I have begun to view that parental tidbit as something valuable even in ministry service, and leadership.  If you want your no to have a stronger impact, then you must say YES more often.  This doesn’t mean that we allow everyone to do what they want, however they want.  We can put in boundaries and systems of checks/balances.  We can slow down the process to manageable steps and evaluate as we go.  We can guide and redirect as needed.

That’s good leadership.



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