Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Discipleship

Setting Boundaries

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Tired of people snapping at you?

If you fall away from these questions or refuse to have someone hold you to them, then Satan will have a foothold in your life. These questions are not just for the pastor or church leader, they are for all Christians who want to live a life of integrity. The failure to have no accountability will produce sin. Then it is not a question of if you may fall, but when you will engage in sin and destroy everything.
           A boundary is a fence to ward of potential problems and to protect those in its guardianship. It sets a parameter to be a guide, as in computer programming parameters keep the program in the right areas of operation. When we have those right areas of operation in our personal and ministerial lives we will be more effective for His service. And these principles are for all Christians; but, especially for pastors and leaders, because they have more responsibility. You need to ask yourself: 

1. Do you spend adequate time with your family? Have a regular date night and separate family night with the kids once a week!

            2. Do you have a ministry that trains and equips others, or do you run the show?

3. Do you try to be too much to too many? That is do you not only train others but also delegate?

4. Do you have unrealistic expectations? With yourself as well as others? We need to have vision and passion, but also temperament, and allow God's timing.

5. Do you say no {with love and tact}, and allow others to do ministry? Pastors cannot do everything, and be everywhere!

            6. Do you have a system of time management? Even Jesus took time off!

7. Do you take regular time off? Pastors need at least two days off a week and 4 weeks off a year!

8. Do you take care of yourself physically, eat right and exercise? Remember your body is the temple of the Holy Sprit, so do not defile it!

9. Do you have a good system to calendar and keep track of events and dates?

10. Most important, do you spend adequate time with our Lord? At the very least an hour a day?  

These questions will determine how you manage yourself and the ministry God has entrusted to you.

If any of the above areas is neglected you are possibly headed for breakdown and sin! Be encouraged that we are not to be perfect, but we need to be the best as we can. Let these questions challenge you to spur you on to the right direction. Set up the boundaries. Boundaries are not a fence to keep others out, but are to keep good neighborly relations. They will not eliminate all of the interruptions, as a pastor or church leader interruption comes with the territory. We need to embrace and love our call and not be hermits to the people in our care. Boundaries create a healthier atmosphere with balance. A church that has leaders who love and care even more, because one person or group is not running the whole show.

            The boundaries we set will enable us to put limits on ourselves from over working and not involving others in the ministry, thus enable us to guard ourselves from overwork to sexual sin. Leaders must have adequate time with their families. And if the leaders do not set limits, people will take advantage of them. Thus, leaving the pastors family out of the pastors life by being so busy with church problems they cannot take care of their own.

            I cannot tell you how many countless times I will be on my way home to my family when someone just shows up at the office to talk. Sometimes it is a crisis, but most of the time it is loneliness. Some times they show up at my home or I meet them by chance at the grocery store. I love people and will naturally spend all of my time and efforts to be with them. This is one of the main areas I love about pastoral ministry. That was OK when I was single, but now as a married man I have other priorities that need my attention. As ministers of God, and as Christians we are all ministers, we need to be attentive to others, be listeners and encouragers. But we also are not to neglect our own web of relationships and family. We cannot trade the fracture of the family for poor management of His people, thinking we are doing our best for ministry. Poor ministry and misguided self-management will fracture your family and ministry.

            Developing limits with your time and church relations will not happen overnight, as you have trained your church and self in patterns that are very much ingrained. Yet it is a must to reform, before it is to late. So what can we do?

            First have trained deacons or ministry teams to respond to the needs of your congregation. One of the best organizations that train lay people for this is called "Steven Ministry," your denomination should have it as a resource for you. Whatever avenue you use and there are many good ones today, commit to it and do it! By having trained lay people to visit members and visitors on a semi-regular bases will give more care to your church. The pastor is not to be the primary care giver, this is not Scriptural {Ephesians 4}. A pastor is a trainer. A person who trains others to be leaders and ministers. When we do not do this we become the only caregiver and create an over dependence on one person when we are all ministers together. This will rode the pastor time away from their family and the proper training of the flock, not to mention teaching preparation. This misguided management philosophy will rob others in the church of their gifts and abilities to be caregivers.

            The second thing that is imperative is have a good system of time management. The ability to keep track of appointments, events with some form of guidelines to keep your time secure within a right sense of priorities. Such as make sure you have time planed with family before you schedule a visit or meeting. Make sure you keep your days off guarded as much as possible. Set office hours for 'drop ins', and let your congregation know your schedule, so they know when and how to get hold of you. And make sure you are doing the first thing.

            Here are some more time-tested ideas to help you guard your time by setting boundaries to better care for your flock:

1. Have trained leaders visit everyone in the church twice a year. And extra visiting for shut ins and those with special needs.

            2. Have people trained to be ushers and greeters who also take care of the visitors.

The pastor can too visit them and send letters too.

3. Have a phone system, {cell, pager, number} whatever would work for you, set up as an emergency contact or chat line so people in need can get in touch with someone. So if a member needs to have someone to talk to or an emergency, they call that number and whoever is on duty will respond. This frees the pastor and gives that ministry to several different people that can be rotated.

4. Make sure you have good ways to relax each day, to take your mind off the church, not just TV.

5. Have the attitude to release the laity to exercise their gifts and abilities. Don't have a one person show, be a team of care givers. Such as, is there people under my care who can do some of the ministry tasks, perhaps even better that I?  

So how can we tell if I'm just tired or burnt? First we need to ask ourselves the questions from the previous section on setting boundaries, and if we are doing it, it is probably just exhaustion. However, if we find ourselves being apathetic and detached from our call and ministry we have a problem. Pride will produce a superiority complex. So we become careless towards others, then we will lose our perspective and what God has called us to do. And either the pride or the refusal to set boundaries or a combination of the two will cause us to fall in burnout and even sexual sin. It is up to the leader to determine if they need an overhaul or just a good night's sleep. And that leader needs to have others to be able to tell them if they see warning signs.  

Here's what we can do to prevent burnout: 

1. Pray, and pray a lot. Have others pray for you! Let God in what you are feeling, release your frustration to Him. You can't tell God anything new, He already knows.

2. Learn to delegate, remember boundaries and the diseases and dangerous we previously discussed.

            3. Keep your attitude in check.

4. Stay healthy, get regular checkups, eat right, rest, exercise… Guard your time off. We are of little use to God if we are always sick and tired. We are on this earth for such a short bit of time, so keep your focus and your health in check.

5. Have a support base to keep you accountable, people that you can go to be listened too.

6. Engage in other interests outside of the ministry, such as biking, hiking, civic events or a hobby.

7. Make sure you have the right focus and call in your life. A lot of people in the wrong vocation, they are not utilizing their gifts, talent, and abilities. Pastors too can be in the wrong profession.

8. Realize that you are not God, He does not need you, He only chooses to use you out of grace. Therefore we are not the Savior to the church, we are the people He uses.

9. Be a learner, read, go to conferences and retreats where you are not the leader, so you can be refreshed.

10. Most importantly, be immersed into the Word.  

Burnout means that our spiritual energies are totally exhausted, that we have no will or vitality to do ministry or whatever our task is. We are completely worn-out and spent. Thus, if we stay in our position without being refueled we will just be throwing a monkey wrench into vital components, causing it to break. When the leader is burnout, they are the monkey wrench that sabotages the machine of ministry. We may not even desire or be willing to do so. But because of our lack of availability due to the fact there is nothing left of us, we are of no service, and are in fact dangering others vitality and ministry. In John 21 Jesus asks Peter to "feed My sheep," we through the power of the Holy Spirit are the feed, and as feed we need to be fed. People will depend on us to feed them, and they may drain us of our feed personally and spiritually, thus we have to be careful to replenish ourselves with the right feed. If not we endanger ourselves and the ministry entrusted to us.  

Be careful who you share and what you share as a pastor or leader. It has been my misfortunate experience that misguided Christians will use it as a guise to manipulate and control you. So be very discerning, you need to ask:  

How vulnerable are you?

How are your current relationships?

What should you share and not?

Are the people you share too able to keep confidences without question?

If I share will I still be respected?

Is the church mature enough not to spread gossip?  

These will be the determining questions weather you need to be in a small group outside of your church or within it. And how to share, what to share and at what level to those in your church. I have found it best personally to seek friendships in my church, and small groups of accountability outside with other pastors in the area.  

"There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. "For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?" This too is meaningless--a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up"! {Ecclesiastes 4:8-10} 

So what else can we do? Have a small group or mentor ask the pastor these 8 questions on a regular bases:

Have you spent time alone with God, is He your driving force?

How is your prayer and devotional life?

Have you made your family a priority?

Have you filled the mandates of your call, being the best as you can be for His glory?

Have you been alone in a compromising situation?

Have your financial dealings been questionable?

Have you exposed yourself to sexually oriented material?

Have you lied about the above questions?

 "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long". {Psalm 32:3}

 If you fall away from these questions or refuse to have someone hold you to them, then Satan will have a foothold in your life. These questions are not just for the pastor or church leader, they are for all Christians who want to live a life of integrity. The failure to have no accountability will produce sin. Then it is not a question of if you may fall, but when you will engage in sin and destroy everything. The ministry God has given you and your family, your self and those around you for generations to come will be destroyed. Yes there can be restitution and restoration, but the cost can never be completely repaid. Just look at King David, his sin had dire consequences that we still live with. 
 
 

© 1986, From the upcoming book, "Pew-Sitting" copyright 1998 R.J. Krejcir, Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

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