How To Say NO Graciously

Often I get caught between services(we do five every weekend) with a sincere person desperate for answers. Precious people will want me to pray for their cat, their distant cousin who is going in for an appendectomy, or help them iron out a problem at work. Should I listen? I know it will be a fifteen minute commitment with a dozen or so others waiting in line.

What do you do?

You must begin with this mindset: every person is valuable, and every person’s problem deserves the best attention I can give. You must not allow yourself to think, “This lady is such a bother!” Jesus took the time to converse with the woman with the hemorrhage while busily on His way to Jairus’ house in Luke 8.

Here’s what I do: The first thing is I actively listen. Then as soon as I discern that this problem will be an extended one, I graciously put my hand on the person’s arm as a sign of understanding and I say, “Excuse me. I can easily see that this problem is worthy of more time than I am able to give you right now. It is far too important for me to rush through it and give you a shallow answer. You deserve much better than that. You need a pastor to take some extended time with you, hear your heart, discern the direction God wants you to go, and pray with you.”

At this point, I call one of the other leaders or pastors (I usually ask another pastor to stand by me between services), and I say “Pastor, would you please take all the time necessary to help this dear person? He (or she) needs some help that requires more than I can give right now.”

Then I turn to the person. “Thank you so much. This pastor will take all the time necessary to give you the best counsel possible. Is that all right with you?”

99% of the time, I have found that people understand and are appreciative for the gracious way you handled their need and didn’t just brush them off.

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