I have a problem with overcommitment. I used to say “yes” to almost every ministry opportunity that came my way for these reasons:
- I love God and want to use the gifts he gave me.
- I love his bride and enjoy helping her leaders thrive.
- I need to be needed and thrive on appreciation.
That last one was hard to write. I would prefer to have only godly motives to blame for my ministry addiction. I’ve used the “God card” more than a few times to justify the hole I’ve dug for myself.
What should you do when someone asks you to commit to an ongoing ministry opportunity? Here are a few ideas that I hope will be helpful.
Make easy decisions quickly.
Some decisions are easy and obvious. If the Dallas Cowboys ask me to play quarterback, I’m not going to pray or think about it. The answer is “no” because I am too old and don’t want ginormous men squashing me on TV. If the Cowboys ask me to be the holder for field goal kicker Dan Bailey, I’m going to enthusiastically say “yes” because nobody ever tackles the holder. And I happen to be a free agent.
You don’t have to pray about every decision you make. A simple “yes” or “no” right on the spot is appropriate when the requests are obvious and minor, like making a phone call or hospital visit.
Wait until you hear from God.
It would be difficult to refuse to even pray about a legitimate ministry opportunity, so this morning I found myself doing just that.
My Discipleship Group is reading through the Gospel of Mark as part of the Disciples Path/Journey. I read today that Jesus prayed very early in the morning…in a deserted place. The disciples and crowds started looking for him because they wanted more teaching and healing. Jesus told them he was ready to move on to the neighboring villages so that that he could preach there too. This is why I have come (Mark 1:38).
Instead of saying “yes” to those crowds, Jesus said “yes” to his Father’s leading to go to other villages in Galilee. Wait and listen in silence for his voice until it is louder than the crowds, because they will always want one more thing.
Seek counsel from people who love you.
I can’t say that I pray with equal intensity about every request I get to speak, write, or host an event. I do run them by Jesus and Janet before I say “yes” to them, however, which is a relatively new development for me.
When I first came to Lifeway, I resumed my pattern of overcommitting until I became overwhelmed. At first I simply informed my wife and supervisor on what I was doing. Eventually I wised up and started asking for their input before I committed.
Who can you consult about your schedule who has your best interests in mind?
Make shorter-term commitments.
Sometimes there is an opportunity to modify a ministry request. Instead of a simple yes or no, perhaps there is a flexible alternative. Short term commitments may lead to longer term opportunities, but they also may provide a soft exit when things don’t work out as expected.
Take control of your life in 2017 by taking control of your schedule. If Jesus can say “no” to one ministry opportunity in order to say “yes” to another, why can’t we? The key is to listen to the Lord as well as those he chooses to speak through.