This is the fifth and final blog post in a series regarding pastors developing healthy boundaries in their ministry. I’m sharing four key points in the process, thinking of them as four fence posts around a healthy ministry.
In a church I planted a few years ago, I knew going into it that boundaries were going to be vital as I was going to continue to work full-time at LifeWay Research. So, from the very beginning, my leadership team and I created my job description around those boundaries.
Know Your Boundaries
The fourth post supporting a healthy ministry is knowing what you can and cannot do.
At that church plant there were three things and ONLY three things that I did: I met with the staff/apprentices, I preached about 70% of the time, and I led a small group in my home.
One of the benefits this boundary had brought to the church is that we were very clearly not a pastor-centered church. I was very upfront with my role in that church. I explained I could not do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings. This left the door wide open for our congregation to see areas of leadership where they were needed, and to respond accordingly.
Choose Boundaries Based on Your Situation, Church, and Gifting.
The question arises: why are those the three things? Because they were the three things that only I could do. My boundary may not look like your boundary. But, God called me to teach and preach and that is part of what I do.
Leading the small group was a really important component of my job description. It was mission-driven and it included several of my neighbors.
My small group gave me a personal, front-line connection with the people that we needed to reach. It prevented me from developing tunnel vision from just preaching and talking with the staff each week, while reminding me that I could not lead what I did not live.
The other major component that my small group brought me was regular personal interaction. As your church grows, you need to sacrifice some personal interaction. That can be tough because a lot of people go into pastoral ministry because they are passionate and good at gifts like serving, providing personal care, etc.
A person can’t care for people like this for a group much over 100. It’s why the typical median church size in America is under 100 people. Growing a church past that size means being willing to allow some of those close relationships to change and shift along the way.
A small group is a perfect venue to meet that need for pastoral care when your church has grown beyond your ability to provide that for the entire congregation. It’s where real shepherding and friendships can happen.
Being a pastor is a lonely business. You see a lot of people, but you aren’t in community with a lot of people. A small group is an integral part to solving this problem.
Be Clear and Consistent on What You Can and Cannot Do
The key to establishing this boundary is knowing what you can and cannot do. Churches will want you to do everything. You should do something, but you should do the right thing.
Typically, your “right thing” will line up with your gifts. Other areas are where you should bring others alongside you, and build a team. This team is what will truly help you to accomplish what God has called you to do as a leader.
When you establish these four fence posts – recognizing your role in the church, pursuing personal health, guarding your flock, and knowing what you can and cannot do – you will enable and encourage growth in yourself and your church. Without these four, you will more than likely experience ministry burn out and hinder the development of those under your care and the church as a whole.
You must be intentional about the long term viability of you, your family, your ministry and your church. If you are not, your boundaries will be compromised and your schedule will be full, but your body and spirit will be exhausted.
As you seek to lead a multiplying church, we’ve created some Mission Group tools to help you grow as a leader, break through growth barriers, and build rhythms of outreach. We love to serve pastors and church leaders.