How do I define boundaries in my ministry?

Webster's Dictionary defines boundary as "something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent." Sounds like pastoral ministry, right? Hardly. A call comes at 2 a.m. alerting you that Mrs. Smith was just rushed to the hospital. Or, on Saturday afternoon, you are about to go out with one of your sons or daughters for a rare dinner together at Mickey D's when you see one of your parishioners driving up the road and, sure enough, turning into your driveway seeking help. Despite your best intentions, you feel destined to a life in which you will never again have free time, privacy or anything that resembles those things.

Does pastoral ministry have to be this way? The answer is a resounding "No". Granted there will be times of interruption, sacrifice and living out of your comfort zone. That comes with the territory. But that doesn't mean you cannot maintain some level of normalcy in life and be a pastor at the same time.

Developing and maintaining boundaries in your ministry, by the way, is not easy, but it will definitely prove beneficial, especially from your family's perspective. We'd like to recommend just few ideas on developing boundaries in ministry (although the list could be pages long).

It would be wise to ask yourself several questions as you perform the various aspects of your ministry, whether it be counseling someone from the opposite sex, involvement in visitation ministry or even the amount of time you spend at the office preparing sermons.

  1. Is there someone else who could do a better job of completing the task I am working on right now?
  2. Am I trying to be too many things to too many people? Remember that there was only one Messiah and He died and rose again 2,000 years ago. You are not Him.
  3. When is the last time I spent quality time with my spouse and/or children? Am I maintaining a dating relationship with my spouse? Am I involved in my kids' lives? Am I having fun with them? Do they enjoy the fact that I am their dad or mom?
  4. Am I involved in an equipping ministry so that others in the church body are being given an opportunity to exercise their gifts and talents? Am I training and preparing others to share the work of the Lord in this place? We realize there is no ideal situation, but according to Ephesians 4, one of the key roles of a pastor is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.
  5. How is my walk with the Lord? Am I staying open to Him? Spending time with Him on a regular basis? Maintaining a vibrant prayer life?
  6. Is my life a total outflow? We should all be immersed in ministry, but even Jesus took regular breaks to rest and reflect.
  7. When was the last time I took some vacation time? A weekend off? A sabbatical?
  8. Am I making time to have regular exercise? Am I taking care of myself physically? Take a walk. Play a round of golf. Make a healthy habit of doing things that help you relax and unwind.
  9. Am I learning how to say 'no'? We cannot do everything asked of us. We need to stay close to the Lord so that we can discern how He wants us to most effectively spend each of our days.
  10. Am I expecting to see my pastoral goals reached too soon? God wants us to dream and plan, but sometimes the key stress in ministry that causes boundary breakdown is being impatient with God's timing when we are trying to change, adjust or refine a program in the church.

We hope these questions will challenge you to honestly evaluate where you are in life. Perhaps it is time to make a change. We have several resources through our Pastoral Ministries department that can provide help in dealing with some of these boundary issues:

Pastor To Pastor Tapes

Pastoral Care Ministries

Check out our listing of ministries designed specifically for pastors and their families. Consider taking a break and getting away for a weekend or week and seek God about any changes He would want to make in your life.