How to Say No in Ministry
The joys of ministry can often be overshadowed by struggle, heartbreak and burnout.
We have good intentions. We like ministry work. We want to glorify God. It’s so easy to say yes when you’re passionate about building God’s kingdom, but it’s just as easy for ministry workers to take on much more than they are able.
The Bible reminds us that rest is important. If you’re ever stuck amidst the hustle and bustle of ministry work, remind yourself of what God’s word says:
Recognize that your worth is in Christ, not in your ministry work
Is fear of rejection keeping you from backing out of a ministry? Sometimes we lose sight of ministry’s true purpose and work not to glorify God, but to avoid disappointing people (or ourselves). This skewed perspective can damage not only the fruit of your ministry but also your own perception of yourself in Christ.
We love - and work out of love - because Christ loves us, not the other way around. By refocusing on God’s love for us first, we can better see how to prioritize ministries in our lives.
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19, English Standard Version)
Remember that ultimately, ministry is God’s work
It’s noble to take on ministries out of passion for God and His people, but a strong belief in one’s own abilities can masquerade as a desire to do God’s work.
The goal of ministry is to magnify God, not ourselves. We take on too much when we glorify ourselves, our own effort and our own abilities - but when we learn to choose to be mindful about how we use our time and talents, we remember that it’s only because of God that we can even do ministry work.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5, ESV)
Think about your time and talents
God gives us different gifts, not all gifts. Uniqueness is purposeful, so it’s beneficial to both ministry work and to your personal relationship with God to be mindful of the abilities He has given you. Recognizing your ability (and disability) to do certain things glorifies God because it makes you honest with what He’s blessed you - and others - to do.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ...If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 17-20, ESV)
Be confident in what God has given you
Others may question why you’re saying no to a ministry. While concern for one another is important and necessary, you are ultimately accountable for your own decisions.
Pleasing God may displease others, this applies to your decision to rest as well. Ultimately, however, we are one body under Christ, so the way we inform others about ministry decisions must be colored by love as well. If you are prayerful about your ministry choices, then you can be gracious, but firm, in your decision to say no.
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14-15, ESV)
Follow God’s example
Jesus slept through a storm (Matthew 8:23-27). Multiple Psalms express the Psalmist’s trust in God and their subsequent ability to rest (Psalm 127, for example). Even God himself rested after creation.
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3, ESV)
God’s rest was not necessary (He is God, after all), nor was it obligatory - He chose to rest and called this rest holy.
The Bible models a healthy balance of rest and work often featuring God himself. We are Christians, and if we are like Christ, we must also rest like Christ.
This rest involves more than shallow breaks or 10-minute naps - this rest involves trusting God to the point of understanding that even rest glorifies Him. Because God himself models for us, we can remember ministry and rest go hand-in-hand.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.