How Do You Set Boundaries?

Spill The Beans

Jennifer,

I need some advice on how to maintain a boundary when I’m not at work.  I work at the church that I attend!  I truly feel that I have not been to worship anymore.  People ask me to do things that should be done during my workweek.  I have been pulled out of my class while I was teaching to work!   I love helping people, but I need a better way to help people understand I’m not at work . If I don’t do it, they will go to the Student Minister who can’t say no either.

– Anonymous

Jennifer’s Answer:

Oh girl, this is a tough one! I am aware of many churches that prohibit their employees from joining the church where they work for this and other valid reasons.

First, I was on a church staff for years, and I understand your quandary.   One of the ways I tried to compensate for this very issue was by establishing a small group Bible study/accountability group with two other couples from our church–both with similar situations.  We met on Thursday nights for over seven years.

It proved to be a rich resource for prayer, growth and fellowship.  Having this need met outside of Sunday morning worship made it easier to lower my expectation for how my Sunday morning should go.

Second, perhaps you could come up with some phrases you could memorize and say with a smile to those who have needs from you on Sunday morning.  Now, I know this is hard and you should only do this if the Holy Spirit gives you the green light.

Here are some examples:
“Oh, I wish I could help you with this but my primary responsibility on Sunday is as a church member, not as a staff member, so jot me a note and I will take care of this on Monday.  I really appreciate your patience.”

“On Sunday mornings, my responsibility is to teach this class.  As much as I would love to help you, I must be a good steward of this responsibility.  Thanks for understanding.”

“Is there another way or time I could help you with this?  Sunday mornings are my time to worship and serve my Sunday school class.  Thanks for being flexible so I can serve.”

Always remember that boundaries never feel good to those who aren’t accustomed to them, so let grace be your guide.  We should always speak the truth in love and be kind.  Eventually, people will begin to discover when you work and when you worship.  If you establish a group outside the confines of Sunday morning, you may feel more comfortable with interruptions on Sunday, as your spiritual needs of worship and fellowship are met in other times and places.

Lastly, your primary concern may need to be developing your ability to say “no” as your own stewardship issue, not as a way to protect your Student Minister who can’t say “no” either!  I commend your kind heart that wants to protect him, but perhaps without your protection, God can teach and grow him in this area, too.

With love, Jennifer

In what areas of your life do you need to set boundaries? Leave a comment here.

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