Good boundaries make good clergy
Well-defined personal and professional boundaries are essential for clergy, but many of us find it difficult to set and observe good boundaries. I am committed to good personal and professional boundaries, and have enumerated some here. The website Soul Shepherding offers a helpful overview about the importance of boundaries in the life of the Church and the example of Our Savior. For a deeper and very helpful theological discussion of Christian relationships and boundaries, check out early 20th century German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s short and very helpful book Life Together.
Keeping good boundaries in a congregational context is difficult. It's tempting to "let my hair down" and relate more as a personal friend than as a priest and pastor. It's a boundary I have violated in the past, and always to my regret – not because I don't value personal friendships with members of the congregation, but because indulging the desire to violate this boundary has a destructive effect on my ability to relate entirely as a pastor when that's necessary. Can we be friends? Absolutely. But with members of the congregation, never in a way that sets aside my responsibilities as priest and pastor.
Boundaries also are difficult to maintain because some (not all) well-intentioned members of the congregation have unrealistic expectations about clergy. They may believe, for example, that clergy are (or should be) available all the time, and are obliged to do whatever it takes to ensure that everyone is happy. That's not possible, and the back-door machinations that the working assumption generates are destructive to the mature spiritual health of the congregation.
Check out lanelikespie.com to read about some of my own boundaries, and what you can expect from me.
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Tags: All Saints' Newsletter