Why do pastors and churches say “no” to your great ministry ideas? 

Here’s the bottom line: churches can’t do everything. The hard reality is: your passion may not be your church’s passion. Here are some legitimate reasons churches say “no.”

1. Timing

Finite people + finite resources = limited ministry. Sometimes it really is a great idea, but the timing is off. There are other “irons in the fire” that make it challenging to launch your idea at this time.

2. It’s not the mission of the church

For many churches, the primary mission is the Great Commission which means there will be all sorts of things the church will not pursue such as reducing unemployment or ecological efforts or promoting political movements.

3. Different strategies

Often times, we all want the same thing, but the way in which we want to accomplish that thing is different. Probably all Christians agree that caring for one another in the church is essential. But how ought that to be done? Counseling? Support groups? One on one? Small groups? Saying “no” to a means is not saying “no” to the end. Differentiating the difference between “means” and “end” is critical.

4. Limited time

I have served on staff in three churches during my 15 years in ministry. I have yet to find myself with spare time. I have NEVER been bored in ministry. It is not exaggeration to point out that saying “yes” to another ministry will inevitably mean saying “no” to my wife, kids, sleep, prayer, Scripture reading, exercise, etc. A “yes” is simultaneously a “no” – that applies to everyone. (It’s at this point some well-meaning parishioners will say, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of all of it!” I’m sorry. That’s not possible. If you need space in the building, you are using staff time. If you need it in the bulletin, you are using staff time. If you need it posted on social media, you are using staff time. If you need it communicated in some way, you are using staff time. Small asks create tasks that add up quickly).

5. No thank you, I’m not interested

This is the hardest one for me, but sometimes being candid is best. “Pastor, I’m really hoping the church will get behind a therapy dog ministry. It brings hope and healing to those who are down and out.” The honest answer is: “I hope it goes very well, but it’s not something I’m interested in.”

This might be a bummer to read, so I’ll close with one encouragement. Lots of amazing ministry takes place that is never an official ministry of the church, or on the church budget, or announced in the church service, or printed in the bulletin or newsletter. Real ministry doesn’t have to show up on the church’s website to be considered real ministry.

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