It was with great sorrow that Julia declined an invitation from the Children's Ministry Pastor to help with the children's ministry for the upcoming year. She just knew she couldn't do it. Her father was getting worse and was nearly to the point where he couldn't be left alone. She didn't give the pastor all her reasons; he was new and she didn't know him well. She simply said, "I'm sorry, but I really can't right now."
She thought that was enough, but the pastor was not satisfied. He went on to tell her how important the children's ministry was, how she was losing an opportunity to make a difference in their lives, how she was making it more difficult to fill teaching roles, etc. He had a whole list of reasons why her decision to sit out this session was wrong. He attempted to make her feel guilty, which he hoped would make her change her mind.
Julia was not untouched by his reasons and he ended up pleading, but she knew her situation and stuck to her decision, much to his dismay.
The Pastor of Children's Ministry needs to learn to take "No" for an answer.
Here are 8 things that might help him or her in this situation:
1. "No." is a complete sentence.
2. A person saying "No" does not have to give an explanation. They might give one, but he or she cannot demand or require one. An explanation is a courtesy, not a requirement. It might be hard for someone to give an explanation. When we approach people for ministry opportunities, we need to respect their situation and realize we don't know everything about them.
3. Guilt should not be a reason for someone to work in any ministry. Do we really want teachers who are only there because they feel guilty? I don't.
4. Realize that people know their lives and limitations better than you. Julia knew every aspect of her life and what prevented her from being able to commit to a teaching role at the time. Since he was new, the pastor did not know her at all. He had no idea what she was facing and taking care of. He needed a teacher and since she had taught in the past, he thought she should be teaching again. He made no attempt to get to know her, either. He needed a teacher; that's all that mattered to him.
5. Arguing with someone who has already said, "No" is spiritual abuse. No need to really elaborate on this one. No means no.
6. Use prayer, not tactics. Instead of using guilt-inducing tactics, use prayer to guide you to people you should recruit for ministry. Early in our ministry, Christy*, a grandmother who had raised several children, came to me and said, "Do not ever put me in the nursery. I am not interested in serving in there at all." So, we didn't put her in the nursery. Many of us moms took turns and, as the church grew, we did ask several others to help out, but we did not ask Christy. My husband and I prayed for her. One day, out of the blue, she came to me and said, "You might as well put me on the nursery schedule." The church had grown, the nursery was bursting at its seams and she saw the need. Christy ended up being in the nursery for the next 12 years, every Sunday during the Sunday School hour. She read to the kids and they all loved her and looked forward to their time with her. Her ministry was Christ-born, not guilt-born, and it was a powerful, long-lasting ministry of which she did not grow weary. Even when some of us tried to give her a break, she would have none of it.
7. Accept "No" as if from God, not from the person saying "No." We tend to think we can convince people to do what we think we need them to do because we've seen a need and think they can fulfill that need. Perhaps their "No" is given as from the Lord. Perhaps the Lord is keeping a ministry open for just the right person to step into. When one person has to say, "No," it paves the way for another person to step up. You, as a leader, don't get to decide who that person is.
8. "No" does not have to be repeated. Once a person says, "No" we are free to move on. They do not have to repeat themselves. A teen was asked to perform a piano solo in a Christmas program, but she felt shy and intimidated and was not really ready to perform in public. The program chairwoman would not take "No" for an answer and kept hounding the teen. After five different conversations, the teen went to her mother in tears, causing the mother to have to confront the situation and stand up for the daughter. The program chairwoman was irate when the mother reminded her that her daughter had already said "No" five times. The chairwoman said, "I needed her to say 'No' one more time!" then hang up on the mother. Um, no. No one, especially in Christian ministry, should have to say "No" more than once. This woman was requiring this teen to say "No" six times!
Imagine the abuse that could be stopped if leaders learned to take "No" for an answer.
I'm sure you can think of more things that will help leaders learn to take "No" for an answer. If you're a leader in your local church, learn to take "No" for an answer.
Your ministry will be better for it.Your ministry might thrive.
*Real people, not their real names.