Having Boundaries For Yourself From Ministry

Youth Pastor boundaries

This article is part of a two-part series on improving the health of yourself and your ministry.

Earlier this week, we looked at what it means to be an unhealthy leader in an unhealthy ministry that lacks boundaries and become enmeshed. So much pain can result from this and we need to guard ourselves, our families, and our teens from this.

Now that we know what it looks like and how it can hurt us, let’s look at what we can do to prevent and repair what we have already down and might do in the future. Let me forewarn you that some of these are not going to be easy and in fact may sting to do. Do not look at any of these as personal attacks on your character, but as compassionate ideas to make you thrive in ministry and at home. We want to see great husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, as well as pastors who passionately preach the Word. These steps will help you get there.

  • Ensure Your Work Environment Supports Your Differentiation. Sometimes the biggest changes we need to make are the most obvious ones. Maybe you have a pastor who did not directly state that they expect you to work 60 hours, but the tasks they give you suggest it. Other times, your calendar is a huge reflection of your enmeshment and slavery to the ministry. Whatever it is, we need to proactively address the environment. Cut programs that are good but not great. Sit down and talk with your pastor or elders about needing to establish a better work ethic and boundaries. Express to your volunteers that there will be more intentional work with teens in less hours. It can be done really well, but you need to have the courage to step up for yourself and everyone else that loves you.
  • Have Accountability. This really should be someone that has no investment in the whole process that can speak to you directly and frankly about how you are doing. At the same time, include your family in the process so that they have a voice in everything and also shows that you love them. Before putting together the ministry calendar, ask what dates need to be avoided and what they see as most important. If you can surround yourself with people who love you and will speak into your life, you will be encouraged and have a better chance of success.
  • Get Organized. Maybe the biggest argument is that this project is important and that’s why I had to stay late. Was it important two weeks ago when you were surfing Facebook at work? Do not give me that weak excuse for not having it done. You made your choice and now you have to face the consequences. If you decide to work late, you are simply passing those consequences off to your family and NOT taking responsibility. This may be hard to swallow, but you need to own it. Go home and be with your family, take the scolding in the morning, and learn from your mistakes.
  • Take Your Sabbath And Guard It This may mean that you take your Thursdays or Mondays off completely and go out of town with friends and family. Honor God in what you do, but do it together with those you are guarding. At the same time, take your vacation. If you are one to would rather not, look at why that is. Are you doing it on purpose or accident? Take time off and leave work alone. Trust me, it will be there when you return.

What steps have you or will you be taking to build these boundaries?

 

20 Comments

  1. Great article!  I completely agree.  Setting boundaries and learning to say no to people has been instrumental in my longevity and personal health.  One thing I would add, I see a lot of youth directors who are single with the attitude of "I'm not married so I can work more." Please don't fall into that trap.  One of the best gifts we can give our churches is being a model for healthy time management, setting appropriate boundaries, and taking our Sabbaths. 
    •  I completely agree. They really can do more, but that sets a standard that they may not be able to meet when they do start taking and eventually get married. I find no problem doing more, but only if everyone in the system understands that this is EXTRA and not the standard.
  2. Great article!  I completely agree.  Setting boundaries and learning to say no to people has been instrumental in my longevity and personal health.  One thing I would add, I see a lot of youth directors who are single with the attitude of "I'm not married so I can work more." Please don't fall into that trap.  One of the best gifts we can give our churches is being a model for healthy time management, setting appropriate boundaries, and taking our Sabbaths. 
    •  I completely agree. They really can do more, but that sets a standard that they may not be able to meet when they do start taking and eventually get married. I find no problem doing more, but only if everyone in the system understands that this is EXTRA and not the standard.
  3. I agree with the first commenter.  Learning the art of saying no has been a struggle for me, but when I do I find that there is such a sense of relief of not over-committing myself.  My wife is very appreciative of this!
    •  I love that the wife gets involved and that you are able to honor her! Thanks for the comment!
  4. I agree with the first commenter.  Learning the art of saying no has been a struggle for me, but when I do I find that there is such a sense of relief of not over-committing myself.  My wife is very appreciative of this!
    •  I love that the wife gets involved and that you are able to honor her! Thanks for the comment!
  5. I would highly recommend the book called "As For Me and My Crazy House" by Brian Berry on this subject. Just came out and I have read about 80% of it. Been a really good read!
  6. I would highly recommend the book called "As For Me and My Crazy House" by Brian Berry on this subject. Just came out and I have read about 80% of it. Been a really good read!
  7. Another book recommendation that helped me with the boundary between family and ministry has been Andy Stanley's "Choosing To Cheat."  While there is still tension between time with family and work, I no longer feel guilty about choosing family over church.
  8. Another book recommendation that helped me with the boundary between family and ministry has been Andy Stanley's "Choosing To Cheat."  While there is still tension between time with family and work, I no longer feel guilty about choosing family over church.
  9. Boundaries are definitely important. I agree that there are some things that you should say "no" to, in order to preserve yourself and your family.  I think what I am having a hard time seeing is where the "work" for a youth leader stops and where service to God starts. Do you include Sunday Morning and Evening into your "work" week? I think it is important for you and your family to know what you are doing for the church and what you are doing for God.  I don't like the idea of punching a time clock for God. Perhaps a future post could help to clarify your beliefs on this.
  10. Boundaries are definitely important. I agree that there are some things that you should say "no" to, in order to preserve yourself and your family.  I think what I am having a hard time seeing is where the "work" for a youth leader stops and where service to God starts. Do you include Sunday Morning and Evening into your "work" week? I think it is important for you and your family to know what you are doing for the church and what you are doing for God.  I don't like the idea of punching a time clock for God. Perhaps a future post could help to clarify your beliefs on this.

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