Patrick Lencioni, in his book, The Advantage, notes that ‘organizational health trumps everything.’ Not only have I found his argument to be true in the church to a high degree, but I have also found it to be true for the leaders of the church as well. Outside of the work of God, health is the most important factor in the effectiveness of pastors, staff and ministry leaders. Outside of the Gospel, the most important factor in the effectiveness of a church is the health of the church. Health trumps all.
Healthy leaders have boundaries.
Setting and enforcing boundaries is a critical, but often ignored part of healthy ministry leadership.
Ministry leaders struggle deeply with boundaries.
Boundaries are a natural part of love.
As parents, we have boundaries for our children because we love them. We know this, yet we struggle to set boundaries when it comes to ministry work. We struggle to set boundaries when it comes to our own self-care convincing ourselves that it is selfish. We struggle to set boundaries in our ministry work, we struggle to set boundaries for our self-care and it is a tragedy. It is unhealthy.
There are a couple reasons that leaders struggle to set boundaries:
Many Christian leaders, church staff and pastors have a martyr syndrome. Somehow we have come to believe that being a good Christian or a good pastor means being a martyr. We have convinced ourselves that self-harm is a natural and even holy part of ministry leadership. We believe that saying no to someone or something is somehow sinful or uncaring. This is not consistent with the scripture, the life of Jesus or the great commandment (love God, love others, love self).
Jesus Cannot do it Without Me
We would never say this out loud, but we operate as if we believe it. Our refusal to stop and take care of ourselves is often rooted in a deeply engrained theological problem. Jesus cannot solve this problem, fix this organization, help this person without me. Jesus needs me. We have a need to be needed. We think saying no to someone or something is like saying know to Jesus.
We are called to love God, love others AND love ourself. Boundaries are an essential part of love.
It is not easy to set boundaries, especially in ministry. Church going Christians often get angry when someone sets a boundary with them, but it is an essential part of leader health and it is ultimately an act of love.
The word ‘no’ may be the most important word in a leaders vocabulary.