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.
I have already shared the first three “posts:” recognize your role in the church, pursue personal health, and guard your flock even from other Christians.
I mentioned previous that I recently planted a church. 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 Grace Church, there are three things and only three things that I do: I meet with the staff/apprentices, I preach about 70 percent of the time, and I lead a small group in my home.
One of the benefits this boundary has brought to our church is that we are very clearly not a pastor-centered church. I’m very upfront with my role to my church. I explain I can’t do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings. This leaves the door wide open for our congregation to see areas of leadership where they are 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 are the three things that only I can do. My boundary may not look like your boundary. But God has called me to teach and preach and that is part of what I do.
Leading the small group is a really important component of my job description. It’s mission-driven and it includes several of my neighbors.
My small group gives me a personal, front-line connection with the people that we need to reach. It prevents me from developing tunnel vision from just preaching and talking with the staff each week, while reminding me that I cannot lead what I do not live.
The other major component that my small group brings me is 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 more than 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 burnout 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.
Ed Stetzer oversees all activities of the Lifeway Insights division, including Lifeway Research, Corporate Communications and Ministry Development. He has planted churches in several states and trained pastors across the United States and on five continents. Author or co-author of more than a dozen books and numerous other publications, Stetzer is a leading voice among today’s evangelicals.