October 6, 2011 PhilBell

Balancing Family and Ministry Part 3: Boundaries

In my previous post I looked at the importance of creating a family friendly schedule that is a win for our families and our churches too. Today I want to talk about the importance of healthy boundaries in ministry.

Check out my first post in this series to see how you can enter to win a FREE registration for The Simply Youth Ministry Conference…

When I started out in ministry I wanted to change the world and see students lives radically changed by God. I was younger, single, and I wanted to do whatever I could to make a difference! Today, I am older, I am married, but my passion has not changed. In fact, I feel a greater urgency and passion these days than ever before… And here’s the struggle: Our passion to make a difference in ministry can often create unhealthy boundaries for our families. It’s imperative we set up healthy boundaries that allow us to be effective in ministry and work hard for our church or organization, but also healthy for our family. 

I have made many mistakes with boundaries, but I have learned a great deal too. Here are the boundaries that truly make a difference for me and my family: 

1) The Hours I Work: My church has called me to minister to students and I take my role very seriously. My church trusts me to work the hours in my job description and expect and be a wise steward of my time. But, I find there is always more to do than my hours allow. If I am not careful I could be working unhealthy hours and miss out valuable times with my family. It’s up to me to set up a healthy schedule.

For me, I usually schedule ten hours below what is expected, knowing that emergencies, extra phone calls, and last minute meetings will add another ten hours. It’s also important to realize that there are certain seasons when we work longer hours, but it’s also important to “buy back” family time sometime later. As a steward of my time, it’s imperative that I work smart to accomplish the most important tasks.

2) My Day Off: I work really hard to not answer my phone, check email, or talk ministry on my day off. My voicemail even states that Friday is my day off and “I will return your message on Saturday”. I have come to realize that being available every day is not healthy for me and my family and in the long run will not benefit my church. A day off is imperative. How are you keeping your day off protected?

3) Cell Phone: There was a time when I took every phone call and often missed out on crucial conversations and times with my family. The outcome was not healthy… Therefore, these days my phone gets switched off at family dinner times and usually doesn’t get switched back on until the kids are in bed. It’s then that I return any messages I have. I also avoid taking phone calls while we are driving somewhere as a family. I do this to be “fully present” with my wife and kids. It’s important that I communicate that they are my priority while I am with them.  It might seem that I am making others wait to get to me… you would be right in thinking so! I work hard to return messages quickly, I always communicate that I was with my family when I return a call since it’s important for others to see the priorities I place on family time.

4) Date Night and Family Night. As I discussed in a previous post, I schedule these crucial dates 1-2 months in advance to ensure my calendar is family friendly first. It’s then that I schedule meetings, sports events, and additional events on my calendar…

Well, those are my top four healthy boundaries for my family. What about you? What helps you do great ministry, yet keep healthy boundaries around your family? What have you been learning in all of this? 

About the Author

PhilBell Phil Bell is a Family Ministry pastor with over 15 years of experience ministering to families. He holds a Masters in Christian Ministry and is a national speaker, columnist, author, and blogger. He’s passionate about investing in families and equipping parents to reach the next generation for Christ. He’s originally from England and now lives in Raleigh, NC, with his wife Lisa and their three beautiful kids.