The same member keeps calling the pastor over and over for financial help to pay their utility bills, buy food, or pay the rent. Another member consistently calls late at night to express “concern” about the “wrong direction” he perceives the church to be going in. A member from another pastor’s church calls you to complain about her own pastor, your colleague. It has been brought to your attention by the church treasurer that one of your members is insisting on getting a tax receipt for a household appliance that he purchased for an elderly member, but you discover that he did not put the funds “into the church,” and instead purchased and delivered it himself without the knowledge or involvement of the church. Then there’s the couple who have several fights each week, call you up, and expect that you should be there to referee their “feature events” whenever called upon to do so. At what point do you say no?
Pastors are generally expected to be available, able, and willing to respond to every matter or request that comes their way all the time. Many pastors can testify to being harshly criticized by members for a delayed response to a member’s “crisis” or call, or for not being able to address a matter at all even after an otherwise stellar record of regular and consistent response in most situations. There are legitimate times when the pastor’s personal life situations may make him or her unable to deal with a member’s issues within the member’s time frame or not at all! There is a lot of stress, the feeling of being overwhelmed, because relatively few ministers have mastered the art and courage needed to say “no” even in situations where that decision is perfectly warranted.
I’ve heard fellow ministers (they tend to be from an earlier generation) say that we should be “all things to all people” like the Apostle Paul. Methinks there is some eisegesis going on here. Surely, Paul did not mean that any pastor is obligated to over-extend themself in order to “be all things” to anyone, and certainly not all the time. This is not physically possible or even practical. The translation of the mentioned text is not within the scope of this article. Suffice it to say, however, that pastoral ministry is made much more difficult and stressful owing to mistaken ideals and unrealistic expectations. It is permissible for the pastor to say no!
I had to learn to say no. “No” isn’t a favorite word with parishioners. It tends to elicit Continue Reading…