Last week, I had the privilege of spending time talking all things Girls Ministry with a couple of women who are both young and in new roles at their church. One of the topics they asked me to cover was balancing life and ministry. While I know most of you reading this aren’t on a church staff, there are some things we can all learn when it comes to setting healthy ministry boundaries.
After spending 12+ years in various ministry roles, I’ll just clear the air and tell you that I’m still not sure what balance truly looks like, and it’s going to look different on everyone. It’s SO hard to say “no” to good things. Girls will always have needs, and you can’t plan for them ahead of time.
Here are a few tips to help set healthy boundaries in ministry:
- Take your day off. This is probably the thing I encourage ministry leaders to do more than anything. We all need time to rest and recharge, but it’s really easy to let ministry get in the way. If you have a friend working in a corporate office who says, “I think I’ll go into work on Saturday just to knock a few more things out” you would tell them they were crazy. If your day off is Friday, treat it like everyone else treats their Saturday.
- Say “no” when you need to. Sometimes we just need permission to say “no.” Today, I’m giving you permission. Identify your priorities, and know when you need to pull back on the reins so that you don’t lose yourself in the midst of ministry.
- Establish boundaries with your phone. My phone goes on Do Not Disturb from 10pm-6am every night. My friends and family know this, so they don’t expect to hear back from me immediately if they text me late at night. You have to know the season of life you’re in and the needs that are around you. This way won’t work for everyone, but it’s the best thing for me right now. By responding to late night texts all the time, I’m telling girls and friends that it’s okay to text me that late, whether or not I feel that way. I can still receive phone calls even while that mode is on, so they know to call me if there’s something urgent and I’ll answer. Make the boundaries you set known to those around you, and don’t be afraid to make a change if you need to, depending on life season.
Here are two questions I want you to ask as you prioritize ministry needs:
- What’s the best use of my time? You’re not too good to do any job. I can set out chairs with the best of them (thanks, Keith Harmon!), but that’s not always the best use of my time in this season. If you have student workers, interns, or some volunteers around, let go of the things you can let go of so that you can do what you need to do to make ministry happen. If it needs to get done and you can do it, jump in. Stack the chairs, take the trash out, put up signs, and make the copies. Don’t lose sight of where ministry starts.
- What are the things only I can do? Do these things and do them well. Find ways to delegate other immediate needs to other team members or volunteers who serve with you. If your list of things only you can do is long, maybe it needs to be revisited.
One of the greatest things you can do is release ministry to those around you. I wouldn’t have learned what I know about ministry if the Student Pastors and other team members I served with gave me jobs and roles. When I was micromanaged in the process, it almost killed my spirit to serve and lead. The greatest joys were when I was trusted with a project or task. If I knew their expected end result, it didn’t matter what method I took to make it happen. That took a lot of trust on their part, but it also gave me a lot of freedom to do things in a way that made sense to me. As a leader, I’ve had to learn how to let go of some control (because let’s be honest, my way always seems like the best way. ha!) and empower those around me so they can learn and grow.
Be engaged, but know your limits. Burnout happens more often than you’d think, and to people you’d never think it would happen to. If you’re approaching burnout or need some help, reach out to a friend and let them know. If you want to be effective in long-term ministry, set some healthy boundaries. I’d love to hear from you as to what boundaries you’ve set, or ones you’re thinking of setting! Let’s share some ideas in the comments below.