“A boundary for a ministry leader or a pastor is like a property line around your yard; only in this case, that yard is your soul. Healthy boundaries make for healthy souls. Unhealthy boundaries make for unhealthy souls.” So says Charles Stone of Stonewall Ministries, who published a great blog post about why it’s hard for pastors to set healthy boundaries, and he offers a few solutions.
- First, he says, pastors are called to help people, and this takes an infinite amount of time. Solution: Remember that Jesus did not heal every person he came into contact with, and there are many examples in the Bible where he goes off to be alone.
- Second, our 24/7 culture makes it hard for anyone to disconnect. Solution: Agree that after 6pm, you will not answer any work-related emails. Also, when you are read for sleep, place the phone on the other side of the room rather than next to your bed.
- Third, we are wired to be social and to please others (therefore, it’s hard to tell someone, “no”). Solution: Just know that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable or awkward when you enforce one of your boundaries. Give it an hour, and the discomfort will fade.
- Fourth, humans (maybe caregivers in particular) desire to feel needed, to feel that we are doing “good.” You can literally become addicted to affirmation and accomplishment. Solution: Ask yourself if you can truly take time away from helping others (for example, on your day off).
If you struggle with that last question, and for anyone who is interested in reading more about setting boundaries, Rev. Stone recommends these 2 books by Henry Cloud: Boundaries: When to say yes, how to say no to take control of your life and Boundaries for Leaders.
MeQuilibrium, the online stress program Spirited Life introduced to pastors, offers these tips for setting healthy work/life boundaries:
- Rethink the structure of your day. Instead of looking at your schedule as “before lunch” and “after lunch” or “at work” and “at home,” consider 1 ½- or 2- hour chunks. Then, take a 15-minute break before switching to the next “chunk” of work.
- Move around. When you are taking a break from work, try to be active, even if it’s just standing up and stretching.
- Reserve night time for yourself and your family. Select a cutoff time in the evening for checking email and stick to it.
What are your techniques for setting and adhering to healthy boundaries?
Image by Lumix G user Larterman, via CC