4 Ways To Say No in Ministry Without Feeling Guilty

As ministry wives, we get a lot of requests to do a variety of things: serve at a luncheon, teach a bible study, listen, advise, solve problems, decorate for an event, have lunch, host things, and take information to our husbands.

It’s easy to feel like we have to say YES to everything because deep inside, we think that is the kind and the Christian thing to do. But that is not true. You have full freedom and permission to tell your church people no without feeling guilty.

Over the years, saying no has become more natural for me. At first, it felt so wrong and awkward. But the more I do it, the more comfortable I feel and the more resolved I feel that it is necessary in ministry.

Often, the trickiest part is how to say no because the simple, direct two-letter word may sound abrupt and harsh. It is essential to cushion the no kindly with context. 

When someone asks me to do something and I believe that no is the best answer for me and my family, here’s what I say:

  • Ah…thank you so much for asking me. I’ll look at our family calendar and see if that is doable for us in all the craziness. Can I text you tomorrow and let you know? [Then the next day, I text:] I appreciate you asking me to ____. But after looking at our calendar, it’s not going to work for me/us right now. Thank you. 
  • I appreciate you thinking of me. I wish I could, but I already know I have a conflict that night. [And listen, EVEN IF you don’t have a conflict in that exact timeframe, you still can say no. You need space to build margin and downtime into your hectic ministry life.]
  • It means so much that you would ask me to help. But our family schedule is packed this semester, and it’s best for me not to add one more thing right now. Gosh, I know you get it and understand the crazy mom life. 
  • I hear what you are saying, and I can tell you are concerned about this issue. Please call the office and schedule an appointment with my husband; he would love to talk with you. I don’t know all the things, but he does and can help you better than I can.

Once you say no, smile, then walk away and leave it there. You are not responsible for how they feel or how your no impacts their situation. Stay true to what you think God has for you to do. You don’t need to manage their opinion of you. You can’t do it all. God is bigger than you are and will orchestrate the people he needs to accomplish his work without you coming to the rescue. Obey his movement in your life.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6 NIV


*For further study about saying no, I recommend The Best Yes:Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKeurst and BoundariesWhen to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townshend.