Tuesday, March 22, 2011

About Being a Deacon: Boundaries for Church Leaders by Beth Bolsinger

My notes from Beth Bolsinger's presentation at the Irvine Pres. Joint Elders-Deacons meeting.

Healthy boundaries - help us order or limit (constrain) relationships - we're safe, accepted, loved, we flourish. Expectations & rules are articulated and shared (mutually held).

What would a Church with perfect boundaries look like? It would have direct communication; No hidden agendas; Respect for all no matter of position; No fear or guilt. There will be disagreements. It will be healthy conflict and above-board though. No back-biting, maliciousness, etc.

Establishing and maintaining boundaries in a church is hard because church is a family business: It's always a family & always a business.

1) Awareness of one's own feelings is very important.

2) Be also aware that people come to church with emotional components! Good leadership recognizes that people are sinners but they are also good (Holy Spirit is at work in all believers).

3) Remember, you are dealing with people's emotions but you also have to deal with it as a business decision.

4) Developing awareness - begin conversations among ourselves about appropriate boundaries.

5) Know who you are, what your authority is, and what your responsibility is. Don't be a people pleaser, enabler, etc.

6) When boundaries are violated over and over again that's where you see burnout. No thank you is a complete sentence.

7) Know how to maintain confidentiality and yet be caring, loving (Christ-like) and maintain safe healthy boundaries. Christ is our best example. He knew when to get away and when to say No. (We must discern through prayer and other means: Is it God calling or our own ego?)

8) Build tolerance for others' disappointment in your decisions!

9) Pastoral care once is fine but not over and over to a troubled person who needs therapy. Refer them lovingly but firmly to a therapist.

10) Does your church have a system - a way - of keeping each other accountable? Accountability is very important. Accountability is what makes the church leadership safe as boundary violations are kept in check.

11) Confidentiality - how do we model that? Are we aware of our language & behavior? Are we really caring? Are we safe? Be aware of conflicts.

12) Some examples of healthy boundaries in our church - think this through for ourselves too. Paraphrasing Nouwen: We are all wounded healers! We must know our own woundedness (wounds).

References for Christian Resources on Boundaries for Church Leaders: No good books in this area yet although there is a lot of Christian and Psychology-based books on Boundaries.

Cloud and Townsend's Boundaries. Beth has not read all of the Boundaries works by Cloud & Townsend but they are Christian psychologists who've done a lot of work in this area, altho not for leaders. [A Google search brought up a webpage with a lot of videos on and for church leadership on the Cloud-Townsend website (not just boundaries but about being an authentic leader, stopping gossip, etc.). You can check it out for yourself by following this link:  http://www.cloudtownsend.com/channels/leadership.php (there are Topical Videos and Q&A Videos to check out).]
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Whitfield's Boundaries, as a basic text: Boundaries and Relationships (Available from Amazon)

Unsure about this. Doublecheck. Pastor Scott recommended a secular book on the art of conversations (?).

BL: Begin conversations about boundaries, confidentiality, and accountability for and among us in the church. Ask questions: What are our boundaries in deaconing? Do we have a system of accountability for deacons? What are our expectations and practices regarding confidentiality?  If you'd like to join us in this conversation, hey, talk to us!


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