Ministry and the Art of Saying No



By Andrew Esqueda

I am a self-admitted hyper extrovert. I am also a youth minister who suffers from severe FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and according to Buzzfeed, I suffer from “debilitating FOMO.” It is debilitating to the point that it inhibits my existence. Now, on a social spectrum this really isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s something that my wife and friends often joke about. I want to be at the party, and the life of it; I want to say yes to every invite and invite everyone; I want to be there, here, and everywhere. I like people, I tend to think that people like me, and I get energy from fostering current relationships and building new ones.

This is also something that makes me pretty good at my job. As a youth minister, meeting new students, parents and congregants, is just simple and easy for me. I don’t have to prepare for any of it—it just kinda happens.

Although my social prowess is often a huge asset it is equally my biggest downfall; this is where the real debilitating part comes in. I have an aversion to saying “no.” It’s not just a dislike, but more like an allergy. My friends that are gluten intolerant or allergic to dairy or nuts have a physiological reaction to the introduction of those foods into their bodies—in layman’s terms, their bodies just get wrecked when they encounter those foods. That’s how I feel when I am faced with the decision to say “no.”

Here’s the double-edged sword though: when I say “yes,” there’s no cessation of the debilitation. My so-called allergic reaction to saying “no” doesn’t cease after I’ve said “yes.” In my own life, it’s so easy to think of saying “yes” to the many opportunities, events, relationships, committees and boards, as the epi-pen to my allergy, when in fact it is simply the exacerbation of it. Ministers in general, and youth ministers in particular (even more so if you’re part-time or a volunteer), are often taken advantage of and, in turn, we often take advantage of our own well being, the well being of our families, of our mental and spiritual stability, and of our whole selves as created beings.

You hear people say things like this all the time. It’s so much easier said than done. My goal this year is to practice the art of saying “no.” As a youth minister I understand the over-programmed nature of the life of a teen; I understand that it is not healthy, that it is debilitating. It’s time that those ministering to these students start setting better examples.

I wholeheartedly believe that students will thrive when they have time to simply “be,” but for some reason we don’t believe that same thing about our youth ministries or ourselves. So, maybe this is the year: maybe this is the year where I, and we decide it’s time to give ourselves permission to say “no,” to simply be, and to watch ourselves, our families, our minds, our hearts, and our ministries thrive.