by | Apr 11, 2024 | Capacity, Leadership, Ministry Leader, Pastor

In our post two weeks ago, I stated the following: Understanding the valuable asset of time was determined largely what and who we say yes or no to. And saying yes or no thoughtfully comes by understanding our capacity.

I was having coffee a while back with a staff pastor at a large church, and he was talking about the constant disruptions he faced. These disruptions came in the form of walk-ins, people asking for money and assistance, etc. He was feeling frustrated about how much of his time was being consumed by these unplanned happenings.

And the thought occurred to me: It’s frighteningly easy to lose a clear sense of our capacity. And so, if we’re not vigilant, time will slip away.

How does a leader determine their capacity?

  • Understand you don’t have an unlimited supply

I can hear one or more of you objecting, “The bible says I can do all things who Christ who strengthens me.” That verse is set in the context of Paul learning how to be content in good times and bad. It has nothing to do with denying the human limitations Jesus created us with. Learn to say no to some things so you can say yes to the most important things.

  • Answering the question: “How do I add the most value to this organization?” Much of the work presenting itself to a leader can pull him or her away from activity that adds the most value. Firefighting can be distracting. It can also be intoxicating.

Solving people’s problems, knocking out the items on your to-do list, running on adrenaline. These can bring a short-term sense of accomplishment. But they often kill capacity. Good leadership outcomes require a leader to regularly ask:

  • “Why did God put me on planet Earth?”
  • “What is my unique contribution to the organization I’m leading?” The answer to that question is going to morph over time.
  • “Am I doing something important daily? Or do I mostly work on what screams the loudest?
  • Here’s a challenging one: “Am I only doing what only I can do?”
  • What do I need to strategically quit doing? (Kevin Jennings)

Here are a few ideas to get more comfortable saying no:

  • Develop a to-do list that supports our God-given assignment.

Now . . . not everything you’re required to do as a leader is assignment focused. Some tasks are maintenance related . . . bookkeeping, paperwork, responding to email, etc. But too often we waste our high-energy moments working on low-value tasks.

This is where a to-do list becomes a lifesaver. I work off two primary lists: A whiteboard list, and a weekly list that sits next to the PC in my office. The whiteboard list is divided into four quadrants:

Quadrant 1:Dreams – These are big picture items for the next few years.

Quadrant 2: Core values – This quadrant reminds me every day how to behave while in pursuit of those God-given dreams.

Quadrant 3: Current quarter’s goals (no more than 6-7 goals). These goals are mini projects.

Quadrant 4: The upcoming quarter’s goals.

The whiteboard keeps me focused on the big picture.

Then every Saturday morning, I plan out my upcoming week. My weekly to-do list is built off my whiteboard, along with upcoming appointments and miscellaneous to-do items. I have been using this system for eleven years and it has helped me get better at saying yes and no. Plan your work life to the best of your ability. It will inform what you say yes and no to.

  • Deal wisely with people

Now, if you’re a pastor or ministry leader, people are a huge part of your assignment. If you don’t like people, ministry leadership is not for you. With that said, it’s quite possible the wrong people are monopolizing your day.

Who are the wrong people? Those who have no interest in growing, changing, or contributing to the gospel mission with their time, talent, and treasure. Those who seek an audience with you but have no intention on learning.

One of the biggest mistakes I made as a lead pastor was spending way too much of my capacity trying to get unfaithful followers faithful, and spending too little of my capacity working with those who were faithful and on board. Be wise about who you spend your time and energy with.

Capacity is such a critical word for a leader. 2 Chronicles 23:6 says “… all the other men are to guard what the Lord has assigned to them.” The apostle Paul said at the end of His life: “I’ve finished my race.”

God won’t hold you accountable for what He hasn’t assigned to you. So, guard what He has. He won’t hold you accountable for running someone else’s race. So, run yours.

Hopefully today’s post will help you get more comfortable saying no when no is the right answer!

Rooting and praying for you,