Blog | Establishing Boundaries as a Church Admin
Establishing Boundaries as a Church Admin
As a church admin, it can be a challenge to maintain appropriate boundaries when you work at the same place you worship. Coworkers might want to talk shop on Sunday mornings when you’re there for your Sabbath, or you might get pulled into emergency volunteer situations by virtue of your day job. As you merge the personal and the professional, you might even find it more difficult than you’d like to be authentic and vulnerable with coworkers and church members. But, like everyone else, you deserve to feel safe and supported as your true self at your church home. With work and intention, it is possible.
It all comes down to developing and protecting strong boundaries.
What Are Boundaries and Why do They Matter?
According to research from UC Berkeley, personal boundaries “are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships.” Boundaries give you the flexibility to say “no” when you want to and to open up to close relationships when you want. Setting boundaries doesn’t make you rigid or mean— they are a way of protecting your mental and emotional energy and clearly communicating with others what you will— or will not— choose to hold yourself accountable for. Protecting our boundaries matters because, whether in work or our personal relationship, improper boundaries can lead to anger, burnout, and resentment.
How do You Implement Boundaries at Work and Church?
In Evangelical culture, vulnerability is a key currency. We are often encouraged to share and bare ourselves, regardless of how safe or stable the recipient of our outpouring may be. After all, it’s church! What could be a more safe community than christ-followers? But you and I both know that church is not always a safe place for everyone, at least not all the time. We do not owe anybody intimacy beyond our own comfort level if they have not proven themselves a trustworthy container for our vulnerability.
This, of course, is easier said than done. Conditioning can make setting proper boundaries in spiritual settings especially challenging. Here are some key things to remember to protect yourself at church:
1) Find Your People
When you work for a church, to some extent you are seen by others as a representative of the organization. Whether you’re projecting this expectation onto others or have been told as much, you are a human first and foremost and you deserve connection, support, and nurturing the same as everyone else. Remember, you are not responsible for representing your place of work at the expense of betraying yourself.
If you truly feel like your church cannot be a safe space for you to let your guard down, that is ok. You might have to look outside your place of work for the community and connection you crave. Whether that’s a trusted group of friends, a mentor, or a small group from a different church, you are entitled to a safe, trustworthy community that can love and accept you as you are.
Setting boundaries is all about communicating what you are and are not willing to do or who you are and who you aren’t. If you are trying to correct poor boundaries, you are going to have to set new expectations. Your coworkers might expect you to drop everything on Sunday mornings to help out or come in at the last minute to help manage emergencies if that’s what you’ve done in the past.
Set a new precedent and communicate that with them. People are more likely to respect your boundaries when they know they exist and when you’re diligent about prioritizing them consistently.
Get Comfortable With Saying “No”
Chances are, even once you set your boundaries and communicate them, people will— whether on purpose or not— try to push past them. It can be helpful to have phrases and reminders prepared to help reinforce your boundaries. This can be as simple as “no.”
It can feel uncomfortable and foreign to say “no” in the midst of our service-oriented church culture. Of course, you aren’t saying “no” because you’re being selfish— you understand that when you take on more than you’re able, you’ll become overwhelmed and resentful. “No” becomes a tool in your toolbelt to help yourself love others to the best of your ability. This can be challenging, but the more you practice something, the easier it will become. This applies to boundaries, as well.
Church admins, thank you for everything you do to help our churches run smoothly and efficiently. The little things you do day in and day out help pave the way for people to experience God’s grace and life-changing love. We know that working where you worship can be a tricky balance and we’re proud of you for choosing to embrace the challenge and implement boundaries that better your health and the health of your organization.
About the Author
Emma Tarp is a writer and worship leader based in Minneapolis, MN. On her best days, she's highlighter-deep in a good book or teaching herself to sew. On her other best days, she's helping passionate folks and inspired businesses put words to their work. Find out more at emmatarp.com.