Time To Say No

My hope and dream is to help you craft a focus, sustainable life and ministry, and I’m trying to do that myself and stay in that stage of sustainability.

I just recently did some inventory of the months ahead, looking at all of the different tasks and potential commitments and options. I came to the conclusion, in consultation with my lovely wife, that I was drifting into a non-sustainable pace of life and ministry. 

It’s an interesting stage for us because we’re in this transitional role. We’re six months into what I guesstimate will be an 18 month assignment. We have another six months to go of working on some issues in the life of the church and moving towards health, and then we’ll move into the search process, and Lord willing within a few months, we will be able to have a lead pastor pinned down in this location. That role is currently just 28 hours a week. 

When you average in some time off, trips and things that are related to ministry, it’s not an overwhelming schedule, less than three quarter time. I’m also involved in a transitional pastors network in the facilitator role, which is about five hours a week. And then, of course, I have my my online writing and speaking in training and marketing stuff. So that’s my regular work week. 

I’ve also been a part of a board for a nonprofit organization and I have regular informal mentoring texts and calls and emails from all different directions. 

But then you start thinking about holidays, which often have so many options. And the challenge we have is we live right now in British Columbia, Canada, close to the east side of the province just over the border from the province of Alberta. We have family and interests in all directions, as well as recreational things we like to do outside. It looks like a just a shotgun blast if you look at a map of all the different options that we have.

So there’s a lot of moving parts in there. And that’s without even getting the details of all the things we’re personally interested in that are seasonal, like canoeing, hiking, hunting in the summer and fall and cross-country skiing in the winter. Many of these things we do actually help us maintain balance because they help us maintain fitness, but was just starting to feel like a little bit pulled in a few different directions. 

Yesterday I started with a sit down and then this morning Kristin and I went out for breakfast. We have some of our best talks just getting out of our routine and going somewhere else and sitting down just the two of us in an unrushed way. We started making some decisions of what to say no to. 

One difficult decision I made was to step off the board of this one nonprofit I’ve been a part of. It’s an outstanding organization and it doesn’t take a lot of time. We have a board meeting less than once a month. Between the preparation and the meeting itself, It’s a couple or three or four hours, maybe some follow up calls or emails. 

But what I found is it has a disproportionate amount of my headspace and my heart space and the stress that comes with being on a board of directors. I just take those roles very seriously as I hope that people on the boards I work with take seriously, and found that when there’s different events and initiatives that I was just carrying more of a stress load for that than I wanted to. 

So at the board meeting last night, I shared with the team how I’m planning to step off. My term was actually up, so I said, given the season we’re at, I need to to use the words of Alec Schaaf and reduce the pressure, the noise; take some things off my plate and out of my mind of my heart to allow me to make better decisions and have that sustainable pace. 

It’s hard to say no. It’s hard to step out and not continue with things that you’ve started, though, with boards and committees and organizations, they’re cyclical more than a starting and finishing line. 

I’m looking at all the different projects online and off line, and some specific things in this season of transition that I need to do. I’ve got to decide which ones need to get done in the probably six weeks or so between now and when we take our little holiday break. 

Then the online projects, there’s always more you can do there. There’s always more social media work you can do or more traffic you can drive or more projects. I was just looking at all of the different pieces I have right now that are related to Priority Pastor.

I’ve got a little cheat sheet that people sign up to and get. I’ve got a webinar that people can sign up and see Planning Your Week, or the Pastor’s Productivity Pack, the larger Priority Pastor course, and the DNA of a Christ follower book and related things and just trying to decide which of those to give greater attention to over the coming months. 

In a way, I’m thinking out loud here and really landing on the places where I need to say no to some things. There’s not a lot of room to say yes for a while. I’ve said yes to a lot of things; a lot of the right things. Important things; things I’m passionate about. But I was beginning to feel that red line; beginning to feel the high RPMs not just in the present, but looking forward to the next six to 12 weeks, knowing there’s a little bit more that could be done than I can do. 

So this is a day and a week where I will be saying no to some things, clearing the deck so that we can have a renewing season ahead, even as we’re dealing with important tasks and projects. 

So whenever you’re reading this, maybe it’s close to your summer or Christmas break, just take a step back and say are you in that sustainable pace of life and ministry? If you’re not, the answer is probably to say no to some things and probably to take some options off the table to create some elbow room so that you can be in this for the long haul. 

If we’re going to be disciples who make disciples, that’s a long term proposition. Christian leadership is a long term process, a long term commitment so we are called to be sustainable within that. 

So I just say wisdom to you as you decide what you ought to say no to and we will talk again soon. Have an outstanding day. Thanks for listening. God bless. Press on. 

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