When "No" Isn't Negative

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saying "no" to people who ask for your time is like the number zero. Sometimes it is neutral, and sometimes it isn't. When you put a zero after a one, it becomes ten. If the one was positive, then the ten is a higher positive number. If the one was negative, then the ten is even farther down the scale of negative numbers.

We classify "no" as a negative, but that isn't always true, either.

My church is in the process of nominating people to serve in elected positions for the next two-year term, and I received a telephone call asking me to be on the Board of Stewardship. I wasn't home at the time, but Roland knew what my answer would be, and he gave it for me.


I sing in the choir and am an active member of the Voters' Assembly. But more to the point right now, I am training to be a Stephen Minister.

Stephen Ministers are laypersons who provide Christian care to individuals going through a crisis and in need of someone to talk to. As Stephen Ministers, we learn to listen effectively and to maintain confidentiality. When assigned to care receivers, we support them as they work through the situation. We also provide them with information on community resources, such as vocational training or cancer support groups. But we do not solve their problems for them. That's their responsibility.

Stephen Ministry is a huge time commitment. It requires 50 hours of training, which at my church is spread over five months. After completing this initial training, a Stephen Minister normally meets with his or her assigned care receiver once a week. Stephen Ministers also attend regular meetings with other Stephen Ministers and their leaders for peer support and continuing education.

Yes, it's a heavy commitment and a scary one. Still, God is calling me to this ministry, and I am confident that he will give me the inner resources to do it well.

But overcommitment can lead to stress or half-hearted effort. And that is what would happen if I said "yes" to serving on the Board of Stewardship. While board service is worthwhile on many levels, it's the wrong thing for me at this time. Instead of doing one thing well, I would be doing two things poorly. And that's harmful to both.

So don't be afraid to say no when saying yes will water down your effectiveness.

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