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Ten Tips For Setting Healthy Boundaries For Church Leaders

In our previous articles, Understanding Healthy Boundaries and Four Types of Personal Boundaries Every Church Leader Needs to Build, we talked about how strong personal boundaries are necessary to protect our time, energy, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. As ministers we consistently put other people’s needs before our own. And in the process, we sacrifice our right to safety, respect and the freedom to be our best selves, which essentially tells others that their needs are more important than ours and they can mistreat us if they want.

Yet, church leaders avoid setting personal boundaries and fear is one of the biggest reasons. We are people pleasers seeing it as our job to make people happy and to not displease them. And in doing so, we compromise our boundaries out of fear. Common fears that clergy have about boundaries include:

  • Fear of angering church members
  • Fear of disappointing other church leaders
  • Fear of being seen as self-serving
  • Fear of being perceived as mean or difficult
  • Fear of ruining relationships
  • Fear of being accused of being un-Christ like

Setting boundaries doesn’t come easily or naturally to many church leaders, but you can learn to set healthy boundaries. Remember that setting healthy personal boundaries doesn’t ensure that others won’t get angry or will understand or honor your request. However, using these ten tips can increase the likelihood that others will respond appropriately.

10 Tips For Setting Healthy Personal Boundaries

  1. Clearly identify your boundaries. Get really clear about what the boundary is that you need to set. If you don’t have clarity yourself then you won’t be able to communicate your expectations to others.
  2. Understand why you need the boundary. You need a compelling reason to set a boundary to ensure follow through. Take the time to understand your motivation for setting the boundary.
  3. Be direct. Don’t be vague. The kindest and most successful approach is to be straightforward. Sometimes in an effort to be kind, we’re wishy-washy and don’t clearly ask for what we want or need.
  4. Be specific. Ask for exactly what you want or need. Specificity makes it easier for the other person to understand your perspective and what you’re asking for.
  5. Don’t apologize. Apologizing for your boundary undermines your intentionality and gives the impression that you’re doing something wrong that requires an apology or justification.
  6. Use a calm and polite tone. Your tone of voice may be more important than your choice of words, so pay attention to how you’re saying it as much as what you’re saying. Raising your voice, sarcasm, or a condescending tone all put others on the defensive and distract from the real issues.
  7. Begin with tighter boundaries. It’s always easier to loosen up tight boundaries than it is to tighten loose boundaries. Many church leaders find it difficult to say no to influential people. As a result, you’re likely to over-extend yourself or agree to commitments that aren’t in your best interest if you don’t have tight boundaries.
  8. Address boundary violations immediately. Don’t wait until someone’s violated one of your boundaries multiple times before you speak up. Not only is this bad for you, it is confusing to others when you suddenly have a problem with a long standing behavior.
  9. Choose the right time. Avoid the temptation to impulsively say things without considering whether the timing is right. Ideally, choose a time when you’re both calm and not distracted.
  10. Create a support system. Setting boundaries is difficult work and can bring up a lot of baggage. Having a support system is invaluable when doing something as challenging as setting boundaries. Friends, family members, co-workers, a small group or a therapist can provide the support that makes setting, following through with, and maintaining boundaries much easier.

Posted on April 19, 2022

Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5