Tip #7 -- Learn How to Set Priorities and How to Say No
photo courtesy of Eurritimia If you are anything like me, learning how to set priorities is a challenge. Once you have chosen your priorities, then you have to learn to say no to other ministries. Why is it so hard to stick to my priorities? One is I want people to like me and thus I don't like telling people no. Another reason is that I often like to do what people ask of me. But in reality there is not enough time to do everything we are asked to do or want to do.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus faced similar challenges regarding where he should invest his time and energy. At the end of Jesus earthly life, Jesus said, Father, I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do (John 17:4). How could such a short life be a finished life? How did Jesus determine where to spend his time? He narrowed his focus. Specifically Jesus did three things:
He prayerfully received his assignment from God
He lovingly gave himself to fewer people
He humbly said, No to other legitimate needs
We can follow his example.
Bible study leaders are in demand
The familiar 80/20 rule often applies in matters pertaining to church ministries. If true, this means that approximately 80% of the church's programs are led by 20% of the members. When church leaders discover a capable volunteer, they are invariably asked to help in many ways. That won't change. This fact alone requires us to learn to say no.
Two questions to ask yourself
We must ask ourselves on a regular basis:
What are my true priorities?
At this stage in my life, where does God want me to spend the majority of my time?
When we are honest with ourselves, we quickly admit that there are not enough hours in the average week to go to work, spend quality time with our family, and be involved in numerous church ministries. This tension is real and to deny it is unwise.
I have chosen to devote myself to discipleship Bible studies
My decision to devote myself to small group discipling is based on two factors:
First, I believe it is my life calling. To make mature disciples and equip disciple-makers is the work God has given me to do.
Second, in my opinion, the ministry of discipling people is the most neglected ministry in the North American church today.
Because of this, I have chosen to narrow my focus. As a result, I have had to learn to say "no" to other legitimate ministries. If your passion is similar to mine, I'm encouraging you to do your disciple-making ministry well and guard yourself from being spread too thin.
This will require courage, but it's simply a matter of priorities. When asked to do something other than disciple-making, explain that you don't have the time because it competes with the work to which God has called you. Explain that you have said "yes" to small group discipling and that commitment means saying "no" to other legitimate ministries.
To motivate and train discipleship Bible study leaders I wrote
Its five full-color lessons will encourage and equip you.
Jesus is our model
The Scriptures record episodes where Jesus was required to say no to the crowds, his friends, and even his own mother. If he could say no, so can we. I am convinced that until we slow down and listen to Jesus, we'll never understand how to set priorities in order to complete the work God has given us to do. But take heart. The more you narrow your focus, the more you will understand the way Jesus practiced his ministry.