December 18, 2017

Establishing and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries

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Randy Weener – Great Lakes City Classis Leader & RCA Coordinator for Church Multiplication

I write about establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries not as the expert (just ask my wife,) but as one who has been challenged in this area throughout my years of ministry.  Just look at my titles above, but don’t feel sorry of me.  I said yes to those roles.  If you are reading this, I assume that you tend to over-extend yourself as well.  Here are some accumulated learnings and attempted practices.

  1. Remember your place. The church belongs to Christ, not us, and he can handle anything that comes along quite well.  Honestly evaluate if your over-reaching is really about your ego or need to be appreciated.  If that is true, secure your identity in Christ and grow your confidence in God’s sovereignty.
  2. Establish a rhythm (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual) for spiritual renewal, exercise, family engagement and life-giving hobbies. Here are some ways to give it teeth.
    • Enter devotional times, retreats, exercise, date nights, etc. in your calendar well in advance. You don’t have to be rigid about this, but you will be reminded what you are giving up before saying yes to an appointment request.
    • Don’t neglect spiritual practices. Pray, read the Bible for personal transformation, confess, journal, meditate, fast, retreat.  I found this to come naturally at the beginning of a new position, when I felt over my head.  It takes more intention and effort once you’ve been around for a while and gain self-confidence in your role.  Then it becomes natural to “lean on your own understanding,” discern with data instead of listening to God, take personal credit for successes, avoid taking risks, and write sermons instead of listen for a word from the Lord.
    • Communicate your desired rhythm to family, co-workers and key leaders. They can run interference and help you be accountable (as long as you are willing to receive their reminders graciously.)
    • There are 21 blocks of time in a week (mornings, afternoons, evenings X 7.) Negotiate with your family and employer/church how many of those blocks you will work per week and schedule accordingly.
    • Take your vacations and personal development time. Don’t leave them on the table.  They are good for you and those you love.
    • Reevaluate every 2-3 months and make necessary course corrections.
  1. You have to self-monitor. No one will do it for you.  Your family will never tell you to spend more time at work and your church will seldom tell you to spend more time at home.  Each will regularly want more of you than you are capable of giving.  Take responsibility for your own schedule and avoid blaming others.
  1. Avoid talking like an over-worked martyr.  That refrain very quickly runs thin with people.
  1. Keeping balance is a life-long challenge. Your rhythm may be working just fine until a parishioner dies on the week of Thanksgiving and the family chooses Friday for the funeral, the day after your Thanksgiving service and Sunday is coming in two more days.  Three preparations in four days, all while hosting out-of-town family members, therefore…
  1. …give yourself grace. There are seasons when our schedules get all out of whack and someone, including you or a family member, gets short-changed.  Don’t apologize for a little crash-and-burn time to recover when it’s over, and make up time with those who got the short end of the stick.  In ministry, it is more realistic to seek balance over seasons than days or weeks.
  1. With every “yes” consider saying “no” to something else. There is finite space in my closet. Therefore, when I buy a new shirt, one hits the Goodwill pile.  Consider every new request based on the finiteness of your calendar.  Before making a new commitment, hit the pause button and consider what you could first shed or delegate in order to take on the new obligation.
  1. Always make time to develop someone else in ministry. We will be remembered less for our personal accomplishments and more for our spiritual progeny who outlive us.  Besides, it provides some bench strength when we need a break.
  1. Don’t fail to accentuate the positive. Yes, church leaders pull a lot of evening and weekend shifts, but we can be available to go on a class field trip with our child, pick them up for an occasional lunch, attend their extracurricular events or have a late breakfast with our spouse.  Besides, sometimes a parishioner offers free tickets to a concert or a key to their cottage; perks of the position.  Hint, hint for those who can make such offers.
  1. Remember #6. You will fail.  Get up, dust yourself off and step back on the balance beam.
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