PMS::setting telephone boundaries

>> September 11, 2009

Does your phone never stop ringing? Breakfast, supper, family devotions - all interrupted?

Church members have lots of needs. Meeting those needs is what the pastor does for a living. But that doesn't mean that members don't sometimes need to gently learn some boundaries. They still need to respect the pastor's family time.

We've talked about having family day and date nights, but what about the phone that won't quit ringing? Does your otherwise-sensible PH feel like he simply HAS to answer every call? Do you feel guilty telling people that you can't do something?

Here are a few ideas if you and your PH need help getting started:

  • Set specific pastoral office hours. Whenever possible, schedule all appointments within those hours. Let members know your planned office hours and then be consistently available during those times.
  • Utilize your voicemail. Especially after office hours. If it's an emergency, call them back. If it's not, wait until tomorrow's office hours.
  • Turn off your home phone ringer in the evenings and on family days and date nights. Let it all go to voicemail. Be sure to check the voicemail for emergencies, but don't feel obligated to respond to things that can wait until tomorrow.
  • If you have pushy members, consider making a cute but clear answering message that says something like: "You've reached Pastor So-and-So. If it's daytime and I'm not answering the phone it means I'm either in a meeting or helping someone. If it's Wednesday, this is the one day of the week that my kids have unlimited access to my time. If it's Thursday night, then I'm on a romantic date with my wife. Please do leave a message, and I'll be happy to respond when I'm available!"
  • When people ask you (the PW) for commitments to participate/attend/whatever, practice a standard answer of: "It sounds great, I'll just have to check with my PH first before I can give you an answer." Urge your PH to do the same, and you can eliminate the majority of your double-bookings and over-commitments.
  • Put your family and spouse in your appointment book. When you have a date or a family activity planned, don't be afraid to tell people: "I'm sorry, I have a meeting/appointment/obligation that afternoon, but I'd be happy to meet with you at such-and-such a time instead." If you don't, family and dates easily get pushed aside - because everything in ministry seems so urgently important. So just lock it on your calendar and don't budge.
Got more? How do you set boundaries while serving unselfishly? Have you and your PH developed a code phrase or signal to each other for when you need to communicate? Where do you draw the line to keep your family first?

2 comments:

Amy Minett,  September 11, 2009 at 7:20 PM  

Excellent!! I've started to implement some of these things into mine and my hubby's ministry and it's already making a difference! Thanks so much Sarah for your wisdom that you pass on. That last little thing of having a "code phrase" is great too. We just had one of these issues recently that became quite a problem because we didn't catch each other's subtle hints otherwise! Thanks again.

vmchechile September 15, 2009 at 5:05 PM  

We just had the one year mark of my husband being a full time pastor and I'm happy to realize that we already do many of these things! Caller ID is a MUST! My PH has been VERY good about keeping our family day for us. He's had to remind a few people that they hired him not me too...that is of course unless they want to pay us twice as much. The "Let me check with my spouse (for both of us)" is a great way to buy some time of whether we either can or want to do something above and beyond.

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