One of my congregation’s pastors left in March. Since then, I’ve feared people would assume I’d take on many of her responsibilities since she and I worked closely together.

The problem is, there’s no room in my schedule to do so. Like everyone else I know in ministry, my schedule is maxed out. I already work far more hours than I get paid for.

As I’ve discussed my fear with others, people have consistently encouraged me to “Just say no”. That sounds nice but it’s much easier said than done. After all, this pastor’s responsibilities were important. Someone needs to do them. Since I like to please others, it might as well be me, right?


Having learned the hard way that if I overextend myself, nobody wins, over the last few months, I’ve been exceptionally vigilant about preventing job creep. To help decide what to say “no” to, anytime I’ve been asked to do something, I’ve filtered the request through these questions:

1. Is what I’m being asked to do a reasonable request for someone to make of the youth pastor?
2. How will what I’m being asked to do further my relationships with students, families, and leaders? Our congregation as a whole? Will what I’m being asked to do give me more or less face time with students, families, or leaders?
3. How does what I’m being asked to do uniquely use my gifts?
4. Will what I’m being asked to do give me life or deplete me?
5. How much time will it take to complete what I’m being asked to do? Will that time be in addition to or in place of something else?
6. How critical is what I’m being asked to do to the youth ministry? Our overall congregation?
7. Will what I’m being asked to do take me away from home another night of the week?
8. Does a staff member have to fill this role or would we be better of empowering a lay person to do it?

Using these questions as my decision-making guide, just this morning I said “no” to a request from my boss that I feared would ultimately be a time suck and draining experience. Even as I e-mailed him, though, I wondered, “Can I really say ‘no’ to this?” To that end, after explaining my decision, I ended with a cautious, “I hope you understand.”

Moments later, I received a response from him saying, “I understand. No worries at all.” Such a response validated my decision and in so doing, gave me the freedom to say “no” when I need to in order to protect my time and ministry with teens.

The freedom to say “no” is a precious gift. I know because I haven’t always felt like I’ve had it.

So friends, today I want to share that gift with you.

You have permission to say “no”.

And as it turns out, saying “no” to certain things might just make you a better friend, spouse, parent, and youth pastor.

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