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Saying “No”

     One of the most difficult things about my job is saying “no” to students who want to be in the worship program at Cedarville. These are typically students who have been accepted to the university, who have often studied their instrument with a private teacher, and who desire to serve God though worship. When they audition, it is our job as faculty to make sure that they are ready to study music and worship on the college level. When the students are underprepared, it is our job to tell them “no”. While this may be difficult, we also look at this as a serious responsibility and a stewardship issue. If the incoming students are underprepared, they would be more likely to fail their reviews and struggle in our program, wasting their time and money.
     There are many different contexts for saying “no”. Some are requests for our time, talents or money. “Can you serve on the finance committee?” “Are you available to sing Sunday?” “Would you like fries with that?” Others are for opportunities such as the one above, where we have power or control over something that others want. Others “nos” may be an exercise in self-control, of saying “no” to too much of a good thing or to avoid something bad.
     I am not naturally good at saying “no”. I like to help people and hate to disappoint. I also have times that I have trouble saying “no” to myself in issues of self-control. It is something that I have to work hard at, but have found that it can be a great thing.

     So, some thoughts about saying “no”.

  1. Saying “no” allows us to say “yes” later. Everything that we say “yes” to means we may have to say “no” to something in the future, whether it be time, money, or something else.

  2. Giving a “no” to someone else’s request may allow them to exercise self-control, or to be rerouted to something better for them. My kids would love it if we had pizza every night, but saying “no” makes us be more balanced in our diet.

  3. It can help you avoid burnout. Saying “no” means that you are protecting yourself.

  4. Saying “no” creates a boundary, and can help create personal margin. A great book about this is “Boundries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life”.

  5. Saying “no” help you be assertive, and will make you feel that you have control over yourself.

“No” can be your friend. Use it wisely!

10 comments to Saying “No”

  • Hayden W Bradley

    This is an idea that we can hear often, but practice very sparingly. As worship leaders and as people who serve we love to do just that, serve. The problem is that after saying yes time and time again, these yes’s weigh us down and cause us to become stressed out. I love the idea of saying no allows you to say yes. We need to be wise stewards of our time and realize that we cannot do everything. It is ok to delegate and to let others lead. In another sense, saying no allows someone else to step up and lead people, or become a better leader. Say no often and say yes often, but answer with wisdom and counsel.

  • Mikayla Bush

    For me, this is an idea that I have learned to practice. It’s not incredibly hard for me to say “no” so something or someone if I feel that I don’t have the time or energy to put forth my best effort. I hate feeling pulled in all directions and never being able to give my best to anything because I’m involved in everything, so I’m very self-aware in making sure I don’t take on more than I can handle. I have learned how to delegate and let others lead in my ministry, as Hayden mentioned. However, one of the things that I’m having to learn now is how to accept other peoples “nos” and realize that when they decline on Planning Center or tell me they can’t play on the intramural team, or don’t have time for the tech ministry every month, they are making the same kind of decision I have made before in order to be the best that they can be and avoid becoming overwhelmed, and potentially burnt out. I have heard great things about the book “The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions In The Midst Of Endless Demands” which is designed to help women, especially in leadership, realize that there is a big difference in saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God. It encourages us to follow where God’s convictions lead us, aligning our heart’s desires with His, so that we will be giving our best “yes” to the things that God has for us while learning to say “no” to the things that will overwhelm us.

  • Macy McClain

    Saying no for me is really hard sometimes, especially in the area of ministry. One thing that I’m working on now is not only delegating things to others, but trusting others as well. I have had some trust and delegation issues in the past, so it’s hard for me to move past these things. I keep telling myself something to the effect of, “You were hurt thenbe you’ll be hurt now. This person didn’t do what they were told, you have to do it now”. Etc. Remember the story of the little red hen? She asked people to help make the bread, and nobody helped her. But when it came time for the bread to be eaten, it was like flies were swarming all over it, waiting for it to finish baking in the oven. This is exactly how I feel about delegating things. Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a pretty outgoing person. However, there are times when I have to back away from things and just get alone. I would hardly call myself an introvert, but trusting and delegating other things to people is something that is crucial in ministry, and finding a balance of when to lead and when to pull back is a challenge for me. I like to “immediately fix” things when I hear them, etc. This was a convicting post, and the books sound like a worthwhile read. I will add those to my ever-growing summer reading list.

  • […] Roger O’Neel shares some thoughts on one of the most important words in a worship leader’s v… There are many different contexts for saying “no”. Some are requests for our time, talents or money. “Can you serve on the finance committee?” “Are you available to sing Sunday?” “Would you like fries with that?” Others are for opportunities such as the one above, where we have power or control over something that others want. Others “nos” may be an exercise in self-control, of saying “no” to too much of a good thing or to avoid something bad… So, some thoughts about saying “no”. […]

  • Seth Brummer

    Saying no is something I find very challenging, especially if the thing in question involves people in any capacity. I also struggle with wanting to please people, which God has been after me about, and in ministry this can be a really bad thing because it will never happen. But as you said, saying no can be one of the most beneficial things we can do, for both ourselves and others. It does help us practice self-control and self-discipline, but more than that, it helps us learn to manage our time–also something I could stand to do better.
    More food for thought.

  • Melissa Martin

    Saying “no” is something that has always been incredibly difficult for me. I love to make others think well of me, and that influences my decisions greatly. However, this past year has been a huge step in learning to create margin in my life and say “no” to people. It has taught me that even though I might want to commit to or participate in something, I must realize that the greater joy will be when I create margin for myself so that I can spend time with the Lord and do other things well. I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. Martha was “distracted with much serving” (Luke 10:40), but Mary was focused on worshiping Christ while she could. If I am constantly jumping from event to event, I won’t be able to serve the Lord to my best ability, and won’t be able to invest deeply in people. This year has taught me that I need to do only a few things, but do them well.

  • Brooke Griffith

    The word “no” can come as a harsh word to most people. I think we live in a society that rarely tells us “no” and is always saying “yes.” Our culture tells us we can do whatever we want and that to be an effective person or to be noticed we have to get involved in every area and wear different hats in order to serve. The church culture can even pull us in that direction and eventually our identity can be found in what we do and the different titles we have. I agree that a “no” can be a tool and a friend. As Christians we have to guard ourselves against burn out. We have to decide where our “yes” can glorify and please the Lord and where our “no’s” can further the kingdom as well. Each “no” is a “yes” to other opportunities.

  • Chuck DeBrosse

    In all honesty, saying ‘no’ happens even when you say ‘yes’. Probably the most dramatic example is marriage. To say yes to one person in marriage is simultaneously saying no to the rest of the human race. I feel like that applies to any other commitment you decide to make or not make. As mentioned, saying ‘no’ now leaves room to say ‘yes’ to something else later that may be better. In regards to the worship ministry I haven’t had to say ‘no’ or disappoint people too often. Usually the only time I do say ‘no’ is when someone asks me to volunteer leading worship for an event or retreat. The best thing for me to do, if I feel like I can’t commit to something, is remind myself the event or retreat or whatever it is doesn’t hinge on my involvement. I really need to give myself a humility check sometimes and understand that God will accomplish His will in an event with or without my involvement.

  • Kristen Henck

    I think if you are going to say no to someone, it would be a great idea to give them a “no, but…” What I mean is not just saying no but perhaps giving them a solution that could help them along. In a way you are still contributing, but not using all your time and resources for it. In essence avoiding burnout. Another good thing to do is delegation. “No, I can’t this time ,but Jonny is really good at…..” Plugging more people in and using those around you that don’t often get used it a great use of the Body of Christ.

  • Brittney Mitchell

    I believe that saying ‘no’ can not only be helpful and protecting to us but can also be protecting to others. For instance, not excepting students who are not ready to be a part of the worship program. Not only does that save money and time but it helps them to see things honestly. Not that they should give up or try again, but they also know areas that they can improve on or grow in. I personally prefer when people are honest with me and tell me ‘no’ because it encourages me to a. not take on so many responsibilities and b. to focus and grow in those areas.