Raising faith at home as a church leader – Managing blurry boundaries

It’s not a normal job, church leadership, is it? It is a life-consuming vocation with decidedly indistinct parameters.

We spend most of our time off socialising (or working – because it often creeps into a conversation on a night out) with the people linked to our ministry. We accept we might suddenly have to switch hats from mate to mentor over dinner, and we might be asked to marry or bury our friends.

It’s a role that impacts the entire family – the (often unpaid) spouse and the children who are scooped up and included, willingly or not, in all kinds of ways.

Blurry boundaries indeed!

If it is sometimes hard as an adult to get your head around where your boundaries lie as a church leader, then what must it be like for our children who grow up surrounded by church programmes and people?

Let’s be honest, it can be hard for them.

When our children were part of the youth group, for example, the adults who they would speak to or who might mentor them would also be friends of ours. Could they really trust that their conversation wouldn’t get back to us?

They found it hard to create an identity at church beyond “daughter of minister” and had to learn to be themselves and sometimes to be wise and positive, even though they knew more about certain church issues than some of the adults in the room!

Children of church leaders often witness the behind the scenes footage that doesn’t make it to the stage.

Although we have never knowingly betrayed confidences or shared inappropriately with our kids, we also know they have grown in leadership and in wisdom, because we have discussed relevant issues with them, when the time was right, especially as they got older.

We didn’t want them feeling shut out or paying the price for our priorities. We also didn’t want them worrying or catastrophising or conversely having the false impression that disappointment never happens. We had to learn trust them a little without burdening them a lot.

And blurry boundaries are not all bad: our life is not segmented into portions for life, work, home, church and friendship. We are who we are, wherever we are. We pray our children will discover that followers follow, and leaders lead wherever they are, and whoever they are with. Most of all, we pray that they will know God’s love, that knows no boundaries.

Family time

What boundaries could you put in place to protect your family time? Maybe it will mean purposefully not dealing with church business on an agreed day. That might mean writing it on your family calendar and praying that God will protect that precious time together.

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