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Learn to say no with this simple trick

This post is part of the series on Time Management in Youth Ministry. If you are anything like me, you’ve come home more than once after an extremely busy day in your youth ministry and wondered why on earth you can’t seem to say no.

No. Just no.

It’s such a simple word, but  for some reason it doesn’t come easy. Many of us youth leaders could benefit from saying no more often, but why do we have so much trouble learning to say no?

A few years ago I worked fulltime as a manager in a hospital. I had just started and my boss was someone who always gave you more work than you could handle. It meant I had to learn to communicate my boundaries. I had to learn how to say no.

How good are you at saying no?

In a management training I did back then I learned the single most valuable trick ever on how to learn to say no. And it was so simple that I almost couldn’t believe it worked so well. What I learned was this:

Create time to think

I discovered that I often said yes when someone asked me to do something without really thinking about it. They would ask, I would spent a few seconds debating with myself and then found myself saying yes way too often. And afterwards I often regretted saying yes because I really didn’t have the time to do whatever I had agreed to, or it wasn’t a priority.

My problem was that I was responding to each request emotionally. I don’t like disappointing people and I often feel an urge to help others if they’re stuck. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if you constantly end up helping other at the expense of yourself, your work en your priorities.

Here’s the simple trick to say no I learned in that training:

I’ll get back to you on that

Don’t say yes, don’t say no, say: ‘I’ll get back to you’. No matter how urgent the request, you can always ask for a bit of time to think, even if it’s only an hour. It will help you to take a step back, get out of your primary emotional response and think it through rationally. Ask yourself these questions to help you decide if you should say yes or no to a request:

  • Does it need to be done at all? I always check if it corresponds with our youth ministry mission.
  • Am I the best person to do this? Do I have the gifts to do this, is this my task or role, or is someone else far better suited?
  • Do I have the time to do it?
  • If not, does it have priority over other things on my to do list?

I actually made these questions into a simple diagram, the Dutch version of it hung in my old youth ministry office. I’d always look at it when I had to decide if I wanted to say yes to something or not. Worked like a charm!

What do you do to make good decisions on whether you should do something or not? Do you find it hard to say no? What works for you?

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0 thoughts on “Learn to say no with this simple trick

  1. I think when we chase our motives down… we’ll be a lot less busy in ministry. So much of what we do is out of guilt or perceived value. The longer I’ve done this thing the more I’ve realized just how important my role is and ISN’T.

    No is a magical word. 🙂

    1. I recognize what you’re saying about guilt as a motivator, I’ve been guilty of doing stuff out of guilt as well 🙁 That’s why I’ve found it’s so important to take the time before saying yes or no, because we can examine our motives and thus make a better decision…

  2. […] I’ve heard many, many variations on this throughout the years. It’s not just a matter of saying no, it’s also about getting people to accept you saying no. Even then, many youth pastors make […]

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