In the final week of our blog series The Four “R’s” of Ministerial Self-Care, we examine whether or not we have a healthy Radius (Boundaries) in our lives…
Have you set healthy boundaries? Do you have guardrails for your weak places? Are you capable of saying “no” without guilt? Do you set your own boundaries or do other people set them for you?
Proverbs 25:17 (NLT) – “Don’t visit your neighbors too often, or you will wear out your welcome.”
We are human beings. We are all given 24-hour days. What we can do in that amount of time is limited, no matter who you are. There are certain things we need to do and balance daily:
- We have to spend time with God
- We have spend quality time with our family or those in closest relationship to us
- We have to do our jobs
But again, we only have 24-hours today. Time will run out. So one of the ways we accomplish what is most important is by the setting of boundaries.
Boundaries are wildly important to our sanity and success. They have to be built into our lives and we have to be the ones who build them. It is on us to control our own schedules, to make ourselves available or not, and to establish guidelines with toxic people. If we do not do the work of creating healthy boundaries with the people in our lives, we will become prisoner to their expectations and wishes.
Creating healthy boundaries is what enables us to have times of rest, renewal, and strong relationships, because boundaries remind us that we can’t do everything!
The difficulty we ministers have is that we know our work is a calling that has eternal ramifications. So we feel guilty establishing boundaries. Any phone call could be life or death. Any meeting could determine someone’s eternal future. So we sacrifice time with our family, with God, and times of rest because we are unable to say “no.” And while it is true that people don’t only have crisis Monday through Friday between the hours of 9AM and 5PM, creating graceful boundaries to account for crisis will allow you to continue operating in at a healthy pace.
Having boundaries helps to remind us that we are responsible “to” others but only responsible “for” ourselves. This is hard for us as pastors because we think we are responsible for every person in our pews, but that’s not true. We are only responsible for ourselves. And when we do not set boundaries to allow us to care for ourselves and appropriately minister to others, we are not doing a good job of being responsible for ourselves or to those we serve. We are responsible to the people in the pews to give them living water from a pastor that is healthy and whole. Whether they choose to drink the water we give is their decision.
Nobody knew this better than Jesus, and he still set boundaries. He still withdrew from the crowds where no one could get to him. There were still people to heal and demons to be cast out, but Jesus set boundaries. He also only let a handful of people get close. He had 72 he sent out, 12 that he lived life with, but only three that he shared everything with. I would imagine there were times when Matthew and Bartholomew may have wondered why Peter, James, and John got to do the coolest stuff. But Jesus set boundaries.
The setting of responsible boundaries will benefit you, your family, and the people you minister to. Boundaries force us to trust God for others and be responsible for ourselves. It isn’t a cold distancing from others, it is a caring alignment of ourselves and those we serve into proper roles and responsibilities.