How often do you hear requests like this:
- Can you help us?
- You would be perfect to lead this.
- It won’t take long.
- We need you!
As leaders, these tempt us to say “yes” to projects beyond our regular responsibilities. Since many extracurricular opportunities in ministry (and beyond—like volunteering at school, being a team mom, leading a food drive, etc.) are worthwhile, we sometimes cram them onto our already full plates without much thought. We mistakenly believe we can do more—or we should do more. Sometimes we sacrifice our personal wellbeing at the altar of achievement, which leads to stress, exhaustion, and resentment. As leadership expert John Maxwell encourages, we need to “learn to say ‘no’ to the good so that you can say ‘yes’ to the best.”
Whether you lead from a staff position or as a volunteer, we all have a defined role with responsibilities that are our primary focus. I serve as the pastor of small groups in our church, but like many of you, I am usually involved in a few ministry projects not directly related to my role. How can we decide whether something is “good” or “best?” It’s not as simple as saying “no” to all extra obligations because some projects are indeed for us to do; they are growth-producing, life-giving, or joy-filling.
Instead, we need to have a clear filter to help make intentional choices about what we add to our plate. We need a process to recognize when a prospective project is something God may be calling us into because it taps into our giftedness, passion, skills, or next steps of growth. And, in the converse, we need to be honest with ourselves and recognize when the opportunity is appealing to our ego, pumping up our self-importance, feeding into our insecurities, or an unhealthy need for approval.
In the past decade as I have grown in leadership experience and influence, I have been privileged to be invited to do more, both inside and outside our church. Because I am also a mother, wife, and household manager, however, I weigh each extracurricular opportunity carefully knowing it will impact my time, energy, and availability. I have developed five self-reflective questions for deciding which extracurricular activities to pursue and which to skip. I pray through these questions and consult with family and trusted friends to make decisions.
1. Am I uniquely qualified, skilled, or spiritually gifted to do this work?
Another way to ask this question is: Would I add value to this project that is different from what is already there? Sometimes we’re invited to join a committee, be a voice for people who typically would not be heard, or lead a specific project that is within your “sweet spot.” For example, I recently joined the leadership team for a women’s conference at our church, something that is outside of my ministry role. I occupy a unique position as the only woman on our church’s executive team. This gave me a voice to speak on behalf of our senior leadership about how much we value and want to empower women leaders. It also gave me a chance to hear from women engaged in ministry at our church and convey their perspectives back to senior leadership. In this way, I clearly provided something that would otherwise have been missing from the team.