“Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.” ~ Anna Taylor
In my post called What I learned in my post-graduate job I made the statement “It’s ok to say no”. I remember wanting to do all that I could to make sure everyone was happy and my time being there was a success. Though that wasn’t a bad attitude to have, I soon realised that I can’t please everyone and do everything.
This goes for the work we do in church too.
Mind if I rant a little?
I’m a youth leader at my church and Sundays can often feel like another working day at times. I use the term “I’m a youth leader” loosely because I’m not sure if it’s something I actually wanted to be or if it was a request I couldn’t say no to. I’ve been a member of my church for about 4 years now, maybe more. When I joined, I was on fire for Jesus and wanted to get involved in any way I could. I found so many youth there and was excited to walk this journey together with them. 4 years later, and a few church disagreements, the youth had shrunk in size and I was burned out.
The church began to rely on me and I was fine with that at first. I felt I had something to give and if you have something to give you should give it, right? So, I did. Unfortunately, my willingness to serve meant that reliance turned into dependence and the joy I once had for serving in the church turned into sorrow. I felt alone and singled out as the ‘can do’ person in the youth.
“Lydia, can you do this?” turned into “Lydia can do this and that and a bit more”. I don’t blame them though. Every time they asked me I said yes. Despite how reluctant or uncomfortable I felt, I still said yes. But why? Church isn’t slavery so why was I afraid to say no?
Is it because I’m afraid to disappoint people? Is it because I don’t yet know my purpose? Or is it because I have the wrong idea of what it means to serve God?
Perhaps it’s all those things and more. When I took a break from going to my church for a few weeks and started attending another church I felt free. I was happy. I was able to receive instead of giving for once and it felt good. When I returned, I realised that my name was still on the list of ‘yes’ people. Lydia, can you teach in Sunday school? Lydia, can you teach in youth? Lydia, can you play the piano? Lydia, can you lead praise and worship? My desire to serve was still there so as always, I said yes.
The bible says, “I can do all things…” but it doesn’t say I can do everything. Church is voluntary and no one should feel burdened to serving in the church or guilty for saying no to a church activity. Running away isn’t the answer but learning to say no is.
We service a gracious God
God really isn’t happy when we’re working ourselves to death. He receives no glory when our service causes us to be resentful and tired rather than joyous and longing. Your worship to Him is more important than your obedience to man. Our service to Him shouldn’t feel like a chore, nor should it leave us more burdened than when we entered the church.
Our values come from who we are in Christ
After some self-reflection, I realised that one of the main reasons I always say yes is because I don’t want to disappoint anyone or lose their respect. To say no is to risk rejection and be deemed disobedient in people’s eyes. But God doesn’t just see my actions, he sees the heart that comes with it. His opinion of you is more important than anyone. If your no is justified, be confident and know that He understands, even if man does not.
To fulfil your purpose and not just a vacancy
Saying no to something means we can give a wholehearted yes to our calling. If I’m involved in so many different ministries, it is impossible for me to give my all in each of them. Taking the time to give your all in one or two things makes it easier for you to see where your passion and purpose lies.
Your No could become someone else’s Yes
We are not adequate to single handily meet every need and there are often more people with much more talent than you in that particular area. If I’m always saying ‘yes’ to a request how will the church find someone else to do the work? How will someone else’s talent be found? The church may not see in some else’s potential because they rely on yours. Your no will force them to look elsewhere and ignite a fire in someone else that has been longing to shine.
When you are carrying out the will of man and not God
Sometimes we may be asked to do things we aren’t comfortable with. If the church is genuinely asking you to take up the will of God instead of your own then that’s different. Often, I feel as though I’m taking up the will of people who disguise it as God’s will. But remember, He gives you the grace to be responsible for your own life and gives you the spirit to discern what is His will and what isn’t.
The church should play a part in empowering you to say no. They have to be more strategic about allocating responsibility. Are positions advertised well enough? Do they provide training and discipleship programmes for people to equip themselves to service and support each other? These are some questions I believe that the church needs to be asking before placing responsibility in individuals. Without a strategy people burn out or simply leave. I’ve experienced both first hand.
I’m still working on saying no to certain things that aren’t really for me, in life and in church. Saying no allows us to cut back, simplify and focus our efforts. It’s not easy but understanding that you have the right to say no is the first step. I might do a post on how to say no, but we’ll see!
Do you have difficulty saying no when it comes to church? What about other areas in your life? How do you normally deal with it? Did you find this post helpful?
Share your questions, experiences and tips with everybody in the comments below.
Till next time.