Embracing Boundaries: The Secret Power of Saying “No”

My name is Shaun Miller, and I have a confession to make: I’m a people pleaser. Boy, that felt good to get off my chest. Setting boundaries is hard for me. People-pleasing is ingrained in my nature, and although I’m gradually learning to cope with it, breaking free from this tendency entirely seems unlikely. As a Production Director, my role revolves around providing media-oriented services to others. Whether it’s making a zoom room work for a board meeting, handling weekday programming, putting out IT fires, or supporting the employees at other campuses, my primary focus is on serving others.

Now, let me ask you something: How many of you struggle with setting boundaries in church ministry?

As a people pleaser, saying no can tear me apart inside. I have an inherent desire to help everyone and avoid disappointment AT. ALL. COSTS. However, there comes a point where my capacity to be helpful reaches its limit, and as a result, I end up letting people down unintentionally. It’s a common challenge within the church community, where numerous demands vie for our attention. Unfortunately, this can become a trap that leads us down the path of burnout + bitterness towards the church and even God. I’ve personally experienced these emotions, primarily due to my difficulty in saying no.

Recognizing my struggle, I’ve delved into extensive reading on the subject of saying no. One book that has been immensely helpful, especially for people pleasers like myself, is “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud. It has provided tremendous insight into remembering my own limitations and establishing healthy boundaries. Moreover, I’ve begun to explore what the Bible teaches us about setting boundaries in our lives, drawing inspiration from the way Jesus himself navigated this challenge. After all, I strive to model my life after his.

In Mark 1, I discovered a compelling story about Jesus’s healing ministry. While he spent a significant portion of his day healing people and casting out demons, there was a notable incident in verses 35-38. Early in the morning, Jesus sought solitude to pray, but Simon and his companions went looking for him, exclaiming that everyone was searching for him. Jesus’s response, however, caught my attention: “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Initially, I wrestled with the fact that Jesus said no to healing people. But upon deeper reflection, I found solace in his response. The pivotal part of verse 38 resonated strongly with me: “…So I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” Jesus had a clear mission—to share the good news of salvation that would ultimately come through himself. While physical healing was an important aspect of his ministry, it wasn’t the sole purpose of his mission. He understood his calling, and knew what he had to prioritize to fulfill it.

Jesus had a clear mission—to share the good news of salvation that would ultimately come through himself. He understood his calling and knew what he had to prioritize to fulfill it.

Considering the times I have strayed from my true purpose within the church while chasing after “good” things, I realized the need for a personal mission statement. It consists of just a few sentences that helps articulate what I believe God has called me to do. When new opportunities arise, I can compare them to my mission statement and discern whether they align with my ultimate purpose. This process may involve making difficult choices, but I’d rather complete a project with strength and conviction than merely with good intentions.

So, how can you embrace the power of saying no to better pursue your life’s purpose? Perhaps it involves finding a volunteer to handle certain tasks, discussing the impact of constant last-minute changes on your family life with your pastor, or evaluating how each opportunity aligns with your mission. Remember, saying no is not un-Christ-like; it is an acknowledgment of our humanity and a step toward living out our purpose more effectively.

I want to close this with a caveat that this is something I am saying to myself as well as to all of you. There is no perfection here, only works in progress…

As we strive to serve others within our church communities, let us also learn to establish healthy boundaries. Saying no is not a sign of selfishness; it is a recognition of our limitations and a commitment to fulfilling our true calling. By drawing inspiration from Jesus’s example and embracing a personal mission statement, we can navigate the challenges of people-pleasing and find greater fulfillment in our service. May we all work to prioritize our calling, avoid burnout, and experience the joy of serving with clarity and purpose.

setting boundaries in church ministry

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Discover how recognizing and embracing our unique roles within the church team can empower us to make a significant difference in the lives of others. By understanding that our contributions, even as tech professionals, are essential to the collective mission of the church, we can find purpose and fulfillment in serving and impacting the community around us. “For such a time as this.”

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