Never Say No
It was a beautiful December afternoon. The church office was quiet as the leadership team was out doing some strategic planning. It was a chance for Steve to finish his pile of To-Dos. He’d already finished up the video intro for the weekend services, the stage plots for the setup team, and had ProPresenter loaded with the worship songs for the first weekend of Advent.
It was two weeks before Christmas. They’d already discussed the scripture references, most of the worship planning, the look and feel of the stage, and some video concepts. It was all about making the final touches and executing. It was quite the contrast from last year.
A year ago to the day, no one had even started talking about Christmas – well, except Steve – who was asking questions about plans and when any conversations would happen. The result was high amounts of stress on everyone – from the volunteers to the pastor. And it was noticeable at the Christmas Eve services last year. Steve won’t even talk about it. It was embarrassing and disappointing.
But today, Steve is excited and seeing this will be a very good Christmas season.
That feeling lasted until about two hours after he got home when his worship pastor called. It seemed part of the leadership’s strategic planning was a discussion on how to make the Christmas Eve services more evangelistic this year. After about twenty minutes of listening the call ended. It was like he just had the air knocked out of him. What was leadership’s plan – a full ninety-minute presentation of Christ’s life as a feature film. But it was to be in the style of “Lost”, the television show. They wanted the flash-forward; flash back vibe – minus the smoke monster. It was an awesome concept and very original film. That meant it had to be produced in house by Steve and his team.
As he sat in his living room with his jaw on the floor that evening of December 5th, he wondered, “How in the world does anyone expect a ninety minute film to be produced in time for the Christmas Eve services on December 24th?” The simple fact of location, set design, shooting, editing, fully produced audio, and coloring made his head spin – let alone scripting and casting – all within 18 days.
How in the world could he make this happen? This would require Steve to work 18-20 hour days, seven days a week, hire freelance film crew to help, rent equipment, pull strings and favors, and tap into a few contacts to even help him understand how to make a full length film. It would be expensive. The cost was high for human resources, equipment, and time and may even risk the loss of volunteers – let alone the effect it would have on his own family over the course of three weeks leading up to Christmas.
After spending a good amount of time that night working on some pre-planning and putting together numbers for the project, Steve presented his pastor and worship pastor the information and said, “Yes we can make this film for Christmas eve services happen, but…”
If you lead the technical arts team, whether you are paid, full-time, or volunteer – or even somewhere in between – you will undoubtedly be inundated with requests for the possible and not-so-possible.
If you think about it, pretty much any request is possible given the time and money. And you are probably in your role because some folks thought you were pretty smart, creative, and good at finding solutions. (And don’t tell me you’re not creative. Bringing the dreams of your pastor and creative team to life may just make you even more creative than them.)
So why in the world would you ever say “no” to the mound of requests you receive from your leadership and staff?
If you’re like me, you probably already have responsibilities that force you to spend way too much time at the church. And any new requests might just make your head pop off.
You may be in an environment where “no” is not an acceptable word. Saying “no” because you don’t want to do it or because you’re overloaded can leave a negative perception against you. But not being able to say “no” leaves you in a very spiritually unhealthy place.
That is why you should never say “no”. Let me say it again. You should never say “no” to your leadership or staff. You should always tell them “Yes, but…”. Yes, but…what will it cost – cost in financial terms, time, and human resource? Do your research on those details then present the facts. This will offer your leadership the opportunity to make an educated decision on what is really important.
If their request is going to require hardware or software to accomplish the task, present a couple options and include purchase and rental prices. Define the time it will take to complete the request. In their mind, that video may take thirty minutes to produce. But they aren’t taking into account the time it takes to setup, capture, teardown, import, edit, tweak, sweeten, export, and deliver that video. Along with how long it takes, let them know what other responsibilities or projects you have that will be affected or delayed to make this happen. Finally, discuss the human resources it will spend. If this is something bigger than you can handle, who do you need to help assist? Will it mean other staff, volunteers, or even hiring a freelancer?
Calmly saying “Yes, but…” instead of “no” allows you the opportunity to let your leadership decided the priorities of that request. It also allows you the opportunity to help educate your leadership in what your world actually looks like. I think this may be just as important as their request – no matter what their request.
After Steve’s presentation that day the leadership decided not to do the feature-length film for that year’s Christmas Eve services. They also asked Steve to do the same presentation on what it was going to take for him and the team to pull off the plans they made a few weeks earlier. Once Steve’s leadership realized the logistics involved in pulling off creative ideas, they included Steve in those meetings to help speak into them. Steve found that he felt more of a freedom to “pull off the impossible” because his leadership understood the costs involved. Steve’s leadership began to understand the hows and the whats of Steve’s role at the church. This deepened the mutual respect and trust for everyone involved in those decisions.