GUEST POST: How to Say No

Josh Griffin —  December 30, 2012 — 1 Comment

If your student leadership program is structured like ours, you sometimes have to turn some students down. Even though you know that it is for the health of the student and the program, that conversation can be so freaking tough! It is SO easy for those conversations to go south. Just a little miscommunication could lead to a student walking away thinking that they are unwanted or unvalued by your ministry.

Here are some things that I do in order to help the conversation be as fruitful as possible:

Balance Truth and Love. As I said, it is so easy for a student to walk away from the conversation feeling unwanted by your church. Leave no room for doubt that your ministry truly values and loves them. However don’t allow your fear of hurting their feelings to sway you from telling them the “why.” The conversation can’t be fruitful if you aren’t honest with their weakness.

Give Action Steps. Saying “no” to a student without talking it through with them is what leads to that feeling of worthlessness. It makes it so that they are only focused on what is wrong with them instead of what they can do to grow. Use this conversation as an opportunity to speak into a student’s life. If they are being turned down because of poor spiritual health, give them resources or adivce to help take them to another level. If appropriate, tell them what they would need to do so that, next time, they could be a student leader!

Be Clear. Do your best to make sure they fully understand what you are saying. Ask if they have any questions. Give them time to speak into the situation and feel heard. It is natural for us to try to make awkward conversations as short as possible, but take your time them. While this might be just another thing on your “to-do” list, it is a big part of their day; keep that in mind!

Pray. Of course, shower this conversation is prayer. Pray that God speaks through you. Pray that the student’s heart is receptive and open to what you say. Pray for it all!

What advice would you add to the list?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

I was a film major in college, which means a few things: I’ve seen a ton of movies, I’m totally pretentious, and I think Orson Wells is a genius. One of the things I studied in film school is the art of a sequel.  Some sequels can stand alone, meaning you don’t need to know anything about the series in order to enjoy it (i.e., The Phantom Menace).  Other sequels are completely dependent on the first film (i.e., The Empire Strikes Back).  Think of this blog as The Empire Strikes Back.  Confrontation is useless unless you first prepare yourself and your heart.  Because of this, make sure you ask yourself the three questions covered in PART ONE.

Confrontation can either lead to reconciliation or destruction, and anyone who has ever dealt with conflict knows that there is a thin line that separates the two.  We need to make sure we take every step we can to approach our conflict in a way that honors the Lord, and that starts with discerning the condition of your heart and the purpose of the conversation.  If, after prayer and consideration, you decide that confrontation is the best option, keep these things in mind:

1. Pray.  Prepare yourself for the conversation you are about to walk into.  Pray that the Lord provides you with effective words.  Pray that hearts are humble and ready for what’s to come.  Pray for peace and reconciliation.  Overall, pray that your confrontation will be God-glorifying!

2. Balance truth and love.  I feel like most of us are really good at half of this.  If you’re like me, you are REALLY good at being truthful (maybe too much so).  Unfortunately, we often attack others with our words, making it impossible for others to embrace our “truth.”  Others are great at being loving, but their fear of hurting feelings prevents them from providing helpful criticism.  We need to balance both truth and love if we want our conversation to be fruitful.

3. Be quick to listen, slow to speak.  The purpose of confrontation is to voice your feelings and frustrations and work towards reconciliation.  It is important to keep in mind that the person you are confronting wants to be heard and understood just as much as you do.  Even if you think you’re right or know you’ve done nothing wrong, make sure you allow the other person the opportunity to give their side of the story.  Remember that you are there to seek understanding, not to voice your opinions.

These are just a few ways to make the most of your confrontation.  What would you add to this?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.