There is such a thing as “Ministry Creep.” This is the idea that being in ministry quickly moves into every area and every day of your life. If a Pastor does not set up boundaries, then his chosen profession will creep into everything. True, being a pastor is more than a job, it is also a lifestyle, but there is also a need for boundaries or else I am working every day all the time. This leads to exhaustion, and that leads to poor decision-making, and that leads to sin and moral failure. Without boundaries, moral failure in some form is lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce.
Because of this, I have a few boundaries in my life, and lately, I am needed to reinforce the walls that protect me. Here are a few things I am reapplying in my life.
1. I work hard five days a week. The more I work each day I am scheduled to work, the less I feel the need to work on my days off. This means I work on Sunday morning that just Sunday morning. Honestly, I usually set up on my couch and work another six plus hours at home while watching TV of some sort. I am willing to meet anytime from Sunday through Thursday if you need anything.
2. I take two days off. I do not work on Friday or Saturday. Simple as that. Occasionally I take a funeral out of necessity, and infrequently I perform a wedding. Other than that, I am off the clock. [I even wrote this yesterday]
3. I try to protect my days off. That means I do not answer my phone those two days. No exceptions. No phone calls. I receive texts and emails, but that does not mean I will respond. I am not mean, and it is not to say that I do not care about you. I need to place this boundary in my life to protect my heart.
It is worth noting – an emergency to you does not equate to an emergency for me. I once had a couple call and beg me to come to their house and offer counseling. I refused. They were mad, and I felt awful. When I saw them on Sunday morning, they said, “Oh, we worked it out. All is fine now.” I quickly learned that not everything is a legitimate emergency.
4. I am willing to say no to some opportunities. I have been invited to speak, lead or be a part of numerous opportunities on Friday and Saturdays. Yes, I could do more for the kingdom on those days, but I choose not to do them. I could keep adding more and more to my plate, but it only leads to burnout. I often ask myself, “Would I rather have five years of unstopped ministry or 25 years with regular breaks?” I am hoping to live out my calling as long as I am physically able, but I must be emotionally and spiritually healthy to make that happen.
5. I request people talk to me about something other than ministry. When I am at the ball game on Friday night, please don’t make it time for a Church meeting. If you do, I will seem aloof. It would be like your boss coming to you into a game wanting to have a business meeting. Please treat me as a person and not just a Church leader.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my Church, and I enjoy my job. For me to continue doing what I enjoy for a group of people I love, then I need boundaries. Without them, I will develop resentment and bitterness. I am sorry if these ideas upset you, but I need them for my own soul. I hope you understand.