Usually, these would include helping to make sure events run smoothly, managing volunteers, and ensuring the children’s ministry curriculum is up to date and exciting.
But, other equally as vital things often take a back seat, as church leaders tend to be extremely busy. One important thing which often falls under the radar is establishing healthy boundaries in the church. Whether it’s with church volunteers, people in the congregation, or staff members, setting the boundaries you need is crucial. Here’s how you can do it.
Why is it important to set boundaries?
As a leader, you are of the utmost importance to the smooth running of everything. If you become stretched too thin and exhausted, it will negatively impact the overall running of the church. So, think of it this way: Putting yourself first in the short term is necessary if you want to put your congregation first overall.
When practiced well, setting healthy boundaries does make you a better leader in many ways. Naturally, you want to be available to help the people who work with you, providing them guidance when they need it. But, if you become too available and allow them to rely on you too much, you could stunt your workers' individual growth. If you are always there to turn to, your volunteers won’t learn to find solutions themselves.
Healthy boundaries for volunteers and workers.
With volunteers and workers, boundaries are a two-way street. They need to feel comfortable enough to establish where their personal limits are. And leaders need to have the confidence to call it out when boundaries in the workplace or church are crossed. It’s not about reprimanding or criticizing — healthy boundaries should work more like a conversation, aiming to reach a mutual understanding.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by what’s needed of you in church ministry, why not try delegating tasks more clearly? If there is a pattern to the issues that arise, equip someone with the tools needed to solve that issue themselves. That could look like hiring a kids’ ministry manager or promoting a volunteer to the position of "lead volunteer." As long as it takes the weight off your shoulders, it doesn't matter.
Creating healthy boundaries for the members of your church.
You’ve had a long week, worked more than you should have, and now you’re on your way home to have dinner with your family, when a church member comes into your office, asking for your time. You cannot simply turn them away because it is your God-given duty as a church leader to help the people of your church. More often than not, it’s feelings of loneliness that draw people in to speak with the pastor.
And, for many people, loneliness is a crisis. You want to help them, but you can’t sacrifice your wellbeing or how present you are within your family either. So, why not create a system where members of the congregation who could be feeling lonely get visited on a semi-regular basis? This could be volunteers or trained leaders, but a smile and a conversation from anyone will go a long way.
If any major issues come to light during these casual visits, your volunteers can report back to you, so you can handle it if need be. Another way to share the load of helping the community is to establish a telephone line that congregants can call. It may ring through to several different church workers at once, so those who are available can answer. Highlight that they should call 911 if it’s an emergency.
Examples of healthy boundaries.
Learning to say, "No," and establishing healthy boundaries are two sides of the same coin. You cannot always say, "Yes," and add more to your plate or you will experience burnout. Though you may be wired to feel guilty or insufficient if you say, "No," remember that God needs you energized and happy. You are not God; you are someone He has chosen to help the world. Therefore, you are not the Savior to the church you serve. So on top of looking after that church, it is important that you maintain your own well-being too.
Next time you find yourself swamped with work and out of emotional or physical energy, try putting yourself first using this framework put forward by Rachel Goss.
- Try to initiate a conversation with your volunteer or worker, so they can put themselves in your shoes and understand how you are feeling. Use "I" statements to express your concerns and reservations about what they are suggesting.
- Explain a solution to this issue so that there is a different possibility available. This way, you haven't just rejected what they want to do, you have offered an alternative.
- To help your team be on board with what you’re suggesting, share the potential positives of this new situation. Once they understand that this new methodology will be better for everyone, they will almost certainly be on board!
Managing boundaries at work is difficult as it can feel like your workers and volunteers need your help for things to run smoothly. But, once you master the art of only being available for your predetermined periods, you will notice your team getting more independent as you get your much-needed time off too.