Saying no is a necessary part of stewarding our resources

Written by Sarah Robinson

Sometimes stewardship means stopping. Or at least pausing. But more often than expected, stewardship looks like letting go of good things. Especially when it comes to ministry roles and activities, good things can be hard to leave behind. I hear it all the time:  

“But I’m known for hosting worship nights.”

“After Covid, people just want to go back to normal.” 

“We always end the year with a formal banquet.”

“Everyone’s used to doing it this way.”

And for me, in my role as an editor for a student ministry: “We have to continue publishing at the same pace.” 

But circumstances change. It’s not always possible, wise, or the best use of resources to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Leaders leave (or come). Budgets shrink (or grow). Skills, interests, and opportunities develop. 

I watched our editorial team shrink from three full-time staff to two, to one—just me. At first, I tried to crank out the same level of production despite these changes. But doing so wasn’t realistic or sustainable. 

And why burn out by trying to be three people, instead of just being me? That doesn’t help anyone. And it doesn’t honour God, who built limits right into my body and brain. Who am I to fight His boundaries? 

A mentor counselled me: “Leadership is naming what actually is.” I had to name a need for change. 

Only as I let myself slow my pace was I able to evaluate. I began asking, “Why are we doing this?” Asking not with angst, but with genuine curiosity. Why work this way? Who is it serving? 

Early into my weeks and months of evaluating, I noticed that the internet is a big and competitive place. There are many people offering quality original content—for free! And the visibility of everyone’s content is at the mercy of algorithms. 

I concluded that in my current situation, trying to produce blog posts that beat the odds and algorithms for attention was an attempt to build a personal empire.

To steward my time, energy, and resources for God’s kingdom meant I needed a new standard for “success.”

I began asking a new question: What could I do that others can’t? Over time, through research and reflection, an answer emerged. Larger publishing outlets can create and curate large quantities of quality content. But this usually means they don’t have time to do the slow work of developing writers. And it just so happens that I love coaching young writers. 

So, I stopped pumping out content for a crowd of readers somewhere out there on the internet. Success no longer means publishing multiple articles each week. Instead, it looks like taking the time and skills I have and humbly offering them to a few writers in a relational setting.

Right now, that looks like hosting a weekly online gathering of eight writers from across Canada. The “Meaning Makers Writing Cohort” explores the intersection of writing and spirituality. It’s an experiment, which scares me. But how will I know what’s worth stewarding until I’ve tried a few things? 

I haven’t published much on the blog this year. That sometimes feels like a failure. But only when I use the old standards. Sometimes stewardship means moving the goalposts. 

And maybe in the future, I will go back to publishing regularly. In fact, one day stewardship will look like letting go of what is now new. And that’s okay. No ministry role or activity is the silver bullet, the be-all and end-all for all time. Because God seems to delight in saying, “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Do you see it?”