PMS::getting members used to your boundaries

>> September 9, 2009

Last week I had an unexpected early morning Facebook chat with a PW in California. It was around 4 AM her time, and she and her PH been awakened by a 3 AM phone call from a church member.

Seems this particular member has a nasty little habit of calling constantly, at all hours, and venting for 30 or 45 minutes at a time. Leaves them sleepless and frustrated before the sun even comes up.

"How do we get them to realize that we need personal space, family time, and a good night's sleep too?" Not that you wouldn't jump to help if there was actually an emergency, of course.

Sometimes you just need to say STOP.

There's always a period of adjustment in every church, with every pastor, concerning boundaries. When you first arrive to serve in a new church - that's the ideal time to set your boundaries and get people used to them. If the last pastor was single, and you have four kids, there's definitely going to be some differences in your needs for family time and privacy. Sometimes it takes church members a bit of time to adjust. But that's okay.

On the other hand, if you've been at a church for a while, and you're realizing that your family or your marriage is suffering - it can take a LOT of effort to put boundaries in place after people have gotten used to not having them. But it's worth the effort. This was the dilemma of my PW acquaintance in California. How do you help people learn to respect your family's space and needs when you didn't start out with those expectations?

If you're realizing you need more boundaries in order to keep your marriage or family healthy and whole as you serve in pastoral ministry, don't be afraid to take the leap. Explain to them how detrimental it is when you neglect your family, and that you just can't do it anymore. Enlist their help in keeping your spouse and kids protected.

Set some simple limits at first (we'll talk about things like phone boundaries later this week), to preserve family time and date nights. Communicate your intentions clearly, and then be sure to follow up consistently. If your PH has a weakness in this area, enthusiastically support his efforts to set boundaries, and work with him to achieve them.

A little communication goes a long way into the process of establishing healthy boundaries. And in the end, your family AND your church will both be better off.


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