In the 1990's, when my dad was a pastor, he and my mom set certain boundaries they fiercely protected both at home and church. There were no cell phones around us at that time. If the land-line phone rang during dinner, they didn't answer it. My dad would not respond to people until the next morning when he was back at the church office, unless an urgent message was left on the answering machine, to which he tended to the need at the moment.
Today, times are very different. Because of cell phones and social media, we stay connected with everyone all the time, merely just seconds away from responding to someone or something, whether it is urgent or not.
When I first married Ryan, he was the full-time pastor and the other staff at the time were part-time. Because of this, he often took care of things around the church in addition to his usual ministerial duties. He was called on for many things, at all times of the day, and I noticed pretty quickly that the demands were great. At first, it bothered me a little when he would stop and take phone calls while with me, because I was seeing life through the eyes of my childhood and the boundaries my parents had made. I realized I needed to let go of certain non-verbalized expectations I didn't even realize I had, and I knew I needed to communicate with Ryan about establishing boundaries. We began to work out a plan on how we would balance family life and ministry. And this was even before kids! Once our first daughter came, I began to see him become more focused and intentional about his time at home with us because his ministry obligations were 24/7. He had struck a healthy balance.
Boundaries. We may not even realize how much we need them in order to have a sense of peace and calm in our lives as ministry families. As minister's wives we love and serve God by serving our own families, churches and communities, and because of all the various needs around us, many times our own physical or spiritual health is put to the wayside.
Are you feeling overwhelmed, tired, strung-out or anxious (or is your minister spouse)? Then it's probably a great time to stop and take inventory of your boundaries, or possible lack thereof. Without proper boundaries, we become overwhelmed, exhausted, or depressed spiritually, emotionally and mentally because our boundaries have become fuzzy, or even non-existent. We have allowed everyone or everything else to take over. Boundaries are simply limits to protect us from having ministry and life burnout. I'm sure we all have heard about a minister who left vocational ministry because of burnout. They eventually gave in, gave out or gave up. Perhaps these unfortunate fallouts can be avoided more often if the proper boundaries are in place.
When setting healthy boundaries in our lives, we need to remember to:
Boundaries are gifts from God, giving us the freedom to be all He has called us to be. We will, no doubt, be better minister wives, mothers, sisters, friends and ministers of His gospel of grace to those around us when we have the necessary and healthy boundaries in place that He wants for us!