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October 19, 2011

The Cure for Influence-itis

Doing for one what I wish I could do for all

“I understand how to tell people that I can’t meet with them soon,” I said to my pastor over coffee several years ago, “but how can I possibly tell them I can’t meet with them ever?” I was experiencing my first round of influence-itis, the toxic, nagging feeling of being needed by too many people.

The first time I asked this question, I was a volunteer women’s director with three children under six. Now, I’m on a church staff, but the demands of the role and my family continue to make it impossible to reach everyone. I struggled then (and still do) with understanding how to care for so many needs with such limited time.

So when Andy Stanley spoke directly to my influence-itis at the Catalyst Conference, I listened. His message was simple:

Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.

He unpacked his message with examples: Instead of meeting ten couples with marital difficulties for a couple of hours each, pour yourself into one couple. Instead of trying to solve the homeless crisis in your city, help one struggling family. Look for intentional relationships that you can give your life to, rather than reacting to every need that comes across your doorway. So clear and simple, but so hard to do!

If you, like me, struggle with saying no, if you feel pressured to meet with too many people, perhaps you need to hear this message. You can’t do for everyone. You become ineffective when spread too thin. But what can you do for one? Or two? How can you evaluate your current capability for ministry and then live that out with all your heart?

Years ago I asked Alicia Britt Chole, a popular author and teacher, about her mothering and mentoring balance. She laughed easily. “I used to mentor a dozen women. Then it was eight, and then three. Right now, in this stage, it’s one.” And she seemed fine with it, because she believes in the power of intentional relationships versus need-based reactions.

I’m still processing how to live out this mantra, but already I find myself practicing it in small ways. Rather than one meeting with a student who already has relationships with other staff, I’ll get busy planning a birthday party for my “one.” Rather than another “let’s connect” coffee, I’ll spend intentional time with another “one,” I have to relinquish the desire to be everything to everyone, and pay attention to the one (or two or five) that God’s given me in this season.

If you’re suffering from influence-itis, step back and ask yourself, what can I do for one this week that I wish I could do for everyone? And watch how God blesses your effort!

Nicole Unice is a contributing editor for She is raising three kids and working in Family and Student Ministry at Hope Church in Richmond, VA.

Related Tags: anxiety, busyness, connecting, leader, leadership, mentoring, over-commitment, time management


Love this so much. I think women can narrow the boundaries of their lives and find so much abundance there.

Nicole, this is a great reminder to me. I was just lamenting the fact that I'm "only" helping one family (plus my own) right now. A friend of mine once used this analogy: when we shine our light, it can be scattered, or it can be focused, like a laser. Sure, a light that shines over a broad area is helpful, but a laser can cut through steel. Excellent post!

I've been pondering similar issue, and think maybe part of the key to this working effectively is to be strategic in who that "one" person is. There are times, like you said, that you need to just reach out to that one hurting person, but as far as mentoring and leadership goes, I think it's crucial to reach out to someone who will return the favor to others, reproducing the investment. That was Jesus' strategy, focusing in on his disciples, and it seemed to work!

Wow, it's good to know many of you feel like I do. @Jenny Rae, I realize what you are saying. I think for me there is a balance between people who "need" me and people who it gives me great joy to mentor into leadership roles. Maybe the balance is some of both!

I just recently took over the Women's Ministry at a large church and literally have hundreds of women everywhere from 20 to 95 to tend to. I was just asking God and my husband how I was going to lead them all.Thank you for reminding my that it one at a time.

I, also, remembered that God is a multiplier and that I need to teach one at a time so that they can do what I cannot.



I also have struggled with this issue. It had left me depressed and overwhelmed in the past. During a counseling session through this time, I bemoaned that Jesus told us to feed His sheep when there are so many of them. The wise counsellor simple said, "But YOU are not the Savior of the world". I remind myself of that anytime I get anxious over a mentee's progress, or feel I haven't given enough to my friends, family, church, etc. I am only responsible for who God puts in my path that day. He will save the world.

This is a great post.

I think as people, mainly women, we try and be everything to everybody. Everybody's mom..friend...confidant.

I like how you say you can be the best you can be to even just one. Pour your time into one.

And even you can do that with yourself. Like, making sure to treat yourself well. Taking care of yourself, just as much or even you can be there for others.

Thank you, Nicole. One of my greatest struggles in ministry is the desire to follow everything through. I meet with a woman for four weeks to help her process her grief, and then I feel funny about ending the visits. But pastoring isn't only about long-term discipleship, but also binding up the wounds that happen in life's broken places. Now I'm looking to help others in the church find their "one" or "two," and remembering that God gives me permission to actually leave people's needs unmet. Gasp! (See Jesus' example in Mark 1.) He will provide for them.

Nice post Nicole! I once heard it said that Jesus limited himself to 12 people and within that, had a tighter circle of 3. So if he limited himself, how much more should we?! Love what you say here!!!

Wow, so much hope in such a short article. Thanks

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