Leaders: You Can Say “No” and Be Helpful Too
When you’re high and walk into my church looking for money for that next fix, the answer is “no.” That one is easy. The potheads tend to receive it better than the meth addicts. But that’s for another blog.
Saying “no” to your own members who have ministry ideas is much harder. Answering in the negative is part of leadership in any organization. Leaders keep vision focused. Leaders protect an organization from good things that could become distractions to the greater goal. It’s tough saying “no,” but necessary for long-term health.
Some leaders can’t say “no.” Responding “yes” to everyone means nothing is important. Always answering in the affirmative is not leadership; it is passivity, or worse, cowardice. Give everyone a green light, and you’ll end up with unnecessary accidents.
Some leaders reply “yes” to the wrong things or the wrong people. They play favorites. They lack discernment. They lead lazy.
And some leaders use “no” in order to avoid being helpful. It’s this attitude that I believe is prevalent in the church. I’m guilty. It’s far too easy to use vision focus as a guise for not being helpful. In this way, staying simple becomes a cop-out, not a strategy. If you’re a decision-maker, then “no” may be the right call. However, answering “no” does not excuse you from the posture of washing feet. Leaders should serve first. Part of serving is being helpful to others.
Church leaders can say “no” and also be helpful at the same time. Here are a few suggestions.
Provide an alternative. Maybe someone’s suggestion could be implemented if refocused. Don’t assume every request is all or nothing. Work with people on ideas. Helping people reshape and polish ideas often makes them even more passionate and willing to work with you.
Direct the person to another leader. Maybe you’re not the right person to make a decision. Your “no” might be another person’s “yes.” Don’t be lazy. Take the extra step to introduce someone to another leader.
Give meaningful insight. Saying “no” without reasoning reveals a lack of care. You deserve push-back (even animosity) if you drop a “no” without saying why.
Let your “yes” mean yes. Let your “no” mean no. That’s biblical. But also be a helpful servant to others. That’s biblical too.