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3 Keys To Keeping Boundaries In Ministry

Real questions I’ve been asked by students and parents…

  • So, what’s your real job?
  • Umm . . . what do you actually do all day?
  • So, you just take the summer off then?
  • How was your vacation to Mexico? (It was a mission trip, you Jerky McJerkyson.)

For whatever reason, some people think that family ministries staff don’t work very hard or very often. This of course, is utter nonsense. In fact, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain appropriate boundaries in ministry. The events, problems, conversations, camps, crises, retreats and everything else happen day and night, on the weekends and always on holidays. I mean, always on holidays.

So, how do we keep ourselves from burning out? How do we maintain healthy boundaries so that our families aren’t negatively affected by our ministry? And, how in the world do we keep ourselves healthy?

What I’ve learned over the last decade or so of ministry is that boundaries are not accidental. They don’t just happen. They have to be established and maintained. How exactly do you do this? I have three ideas.

SCHEDULE WHAT MATTERS

Time is like money. We only have so much. I’ve found that I never save or give if I wait to see what’s left after buying everything I think I need or want. The better approach is to save and give first and then live off the rest. In other words, schedule what matters first.

The same principle applies with time and boundaries. Schedule what matters first. Put time alone with God, time with your kids, dates with your spouse, and time pursuing life-giving hobbies on your calendar and then schedule your work and everything else around what matters. Find a way to put these activities in the same time slot week after week. Using this approach virtually guarantees that you will build boundaries about what matters most in your life.

BECOME MORE EFFICIENT AT WORK SO YOU CAN BE MORE PRESENT AT HOME

I’m a big believer in leaving work at work. I realize that this isn’t always possible, especially because many of us are required to work evenings. However, there is a principle here. There have been seasons of my life in which I thought I had so much work to do that I couldn’t finish it at work and ended up working at home. This isn’t healthy. The truth was that I wasn’t working efficiently during work hours.

I would argue that many of us could benefit from better organizing our workweek. My entire ministry team operates off block schedules. We start with our job descriptions and fill in the hours of the workweek with our responsibilities. We do the same tasks every week on the same days, during the same time blocks. If you are a creative this may sound like prison but I’m telling you, it is so liberating!

By learning to operate off a block schedule, I have become far more efficient. I can do more work, in less time and I rarely have to take work home. I would argue that we need to become more efficient at work so that we can become more present at home.

GET A BOUNDARY REFEREE

I’ve discovered that I’m not so great at guarding my own boundaries. I’m too often swayed by my own perspective, emotions and sense of self-importance. I need a boundary referee. I need someone in my life who is watching my boundaries—someone who is willing to throw the flag on me when things get a little sideways in my life.

Who in your life has permission to ask you hard questions about your relationship at your work? We all need a boundary referee to help keep us on track.

Let’s wrap this up: Please think seriously about boundaries in your life. God has placed you in your ministry context for a reason. The children, students, volunteers and families in your ministry need a healthy you. Healthy boundaries are attainable when we schedule what matters, become more efficient at work and find trusted friends who can act as boundary referees.

 

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