A FRAME for Setting Boundaries in Ministry

Boundaries are established to MAXIMIZE WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT.

Most of the time I think of boundaries as “limiting”, “minimizing temptation” or “keeping me from doing” something…boundaries are often framed in the negative in my life.

If 10 different people wrote on this post, I suppose we would see 10 different nuances of specific boundaries.  Should you text someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse?  What about a staff member?  What about in a crisis?  A student?  Not to mention the list of areas in our life we might need to set boundaries:  physical proximity to the opposite sex, work and family, computer, time on campus/in the office, preparing for teaching, nights a week away from home, complaining and sarcasm…the list could be endless.

Furthermore, boundaries can be unproductive.  On the one hand, we sometimes becomes slaves to them (even irresponsibly so) or on the other hand we create such fluid and nuanced exceptions that the boundaries are no longer boundaries at all.

So, rather than sharing examples of boundaries that we might set going into this year, here are 5 things to keep in mind when setting boundaries in areas of life and ministry this year.  Remember, boundaries are there as a FRAME to maximize the picture you want to paint with your life and ministry this year.  Keep these 5 things in mind when setting boundaries in your life & ministry this year.

F R A M E

Few – Pick a limited number of boundaries in the most crucial areas.  If you pick too many, you will find yourself a slave to boundaries rather than free to do ministry…not to mention angry and frustrated (I speak from experience).

Realistic – If boundaries are intended to maximize the things that are beneficial, rather than bind us rules, then we need to set realistic boundaries.  For example, I made a commitment for Lent not to do any work on the computer after 6pm at home.  This was a great idea (and led to some great things), but it was completely unrealistic.  Teaching preparation, emailing about decisions that needed to be made promptly, Facebook chats the turned into a pastoral conversation.

Anchored – If they are unrealistic, they will not be consistent.  An anchor is intended to hold us in place, to keep something (a boat for example) from drifting away.  Consistent boundaries keep us in place, they allow the frame to remain consistent and people know what they can expect.  If my boundaries come with exceptions, I find myself adrift and the frame falling apart.

Mutual – You have to share them with someone.  Someone needs to know the boundaries that you are setting and why.  Only when they know “why” can they help you navigate the terrain of keeping them.  If they are not shared, we are asking ourselves to keep limitations that we have not previously been able to keep which is the reason we have created the boundary to begin with!

Evident – I think boundaries need to have a quantitative rather than qualitative way of measuring.  No one can help keep your life framed if your boundaries are only qualities in your own mind.  I tend to be able to deceive myself well:  “Sarcastic?  That wasn’t sarcastic.  That was just being honest.”

My prayer is that this FRAME for boundaries doesn’t burden us with extra rules to remember and weight us down with guilt, but maximizes the life that we REALLY want to put on display.

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Tim Hawkins and his family moved to Boston five years ago and founded SojournCollegiateMinistry.  Sojourn hosts “spiritual greenhouses” in neighborhoods and campuses around the city in conjunction with church partnerships to help students on their journey back to God.  With six other full and part-time staff Sojourn’s focus is on missional community groups that provide an environment for planting spiritual seeds among the 250,000 college students, developing life roots in Jesus and living fruit of compassion and justice in the neighborhoods of Boston.

About the author: Tim Hawkins
Tim is the founder and Director of SojournCollegiateMinistry, leading a staff team that has grown from three to eleven in the past three years in New England. Tim also serves on the steering committee for Globalscope, an international campus ministry planting organization, and from 2006-2009 as President and officer with the Association of College Ministries.