3 Boundaries to set up

Boundaries can be very hard to set and maintain.  But, it is important for you to set them up so that you protect yourself, your family and your ministry.  Here are some boundaries I believe we need to set up as youth ministers:

  • Set up boundaries on the hours we work. I have been both a part-time and full-time youth minister.  In both situations, I needed to be mindful to the hourly expectations.  For instance, if you are hired to be part-time, be part-time as much as possible.  We all know that when you are hired to work in ministry, you are never “part-time”.  But, if a Church cannot afford to hire you full-time for whatever reason, it is your responsibility to hold to your hours.  As admirable as it may be and despite how passionately you feel about ministry, I have found that if you work more than you should, you limit other potential job opportunities (i.e., a 2nd  job to make ends meet) and the Church may never feel the need to bring you on full-time.  After all, why pay someone full-time if you are working full-time as a part-timer?  Honor what the Church expects and then some, but hold true to your hours.
  • If you are full-time, understand what your Church expects from you.  Most Churches I know of expect 40 to 50 hours a week of work.  Understand what kind of “office hours” you need to uphold and how much they expect you to be in.  Different churches have different expectations.  Also, remember that Sundays are work days so make sure that you are NOT working one day during Monday – Friday.  Limit your nights out so you can have a social life or spend time with your family.  If you work a weekend trip, that is easy 24-48 hours of work right there, so definitely take 2 days off the following week.

    In ministry, it can be very easy to work, work, work that we forget to turn off our cell-phones and not check our email.  Remember, just because you “could” or “can” do something with youth, doesn’t mean you always should do it.  Believe it or not, you do have a life outside of ministry.  Therefore, give all you can to ministry, but set up healthy boundaries so you don’t burn yourself, your family and friends out.

  • Set up boundaries in how you manage your time.  It can be very easy to get into the pattern of dealing with just the urgent stuff – the things that are happening that day or that week.  For instance, I often go into our Church Staff Meeting with little or nothing written on my To-Do list because I know that when I come out of that meeting, it is often filled up with “must-do” things for the week.  Those must-dos are often assigned to me by others.  I have found that if I get trapped in their urgent must-dos I forget about what is needed to be done from a strategic standpoint (i.e., curriculum ideas, trip planning, leadership recruitment and development and overall vision of the program).
  • Now, don’t get me wrong, some of those “must-dos” are urgent and need to be accomplished.  But, manage your time effectively so you can hit the urgent must-dos without sacrificing your plans of what needs to get done.  If you get overwhelmed at Staff Meetings as I do, maybe you put in an hour after that meeting to handle the urgent must-dos you get assigned.  That way you honor what our Senior Pastor wants by knocking them out quickly while not sacrificing what you need to get done.

    The point is that ministry can be very A.D.D.  Unless you keep focus and find time to pursue the long term and other important aspects of your ministry, you can get caught up in the urgent “must-dos” and never be able to move your ministry to where you want and where God is leading.

  • Set up boundaries in time spent with the opposite sex. Let’s be honest.  If you been in or around ministry for any amount of time, you will have heard of or know Pastors or Youth Ministers who have had affairs or inappropriate relationships with members of the opposite sex.  In just the 45 seconds I thought about it, I can count at least 8.  This is a huge problem for people in ministry and unless you are very intentional about it, you set yourself up to being caught up in this as well.
  • I have made a conscious decision to set boundaries with women.  For example, if I need to meet with a female leader, I always meet with her in a public setting (i.e, Starbucks) or at the Church with the door open so another Staff member can hear or pop in.  Even though I share an office with Katie, we leave the door open at all times.  Also, I try my hardest never to hug students, male or female (I’m not a hugger anyways, so this isn’t too hard).  I never have any female student on my phone contact list and I will only call/text a female student if I need a babysitter or for her to share something at Church.

    The point is that I never want to put myself into a position where the devil has any kind of foothold in this area.  Whether or not these boundaries will work for you, my encouragement is that you need to set some boundaries up so that you can withstand Satan’s attacks.  Again, too many people in ministry get taken out because of affairs or inappropriate relationships.  The moment we feel that we have won in this area is the moment Satan turns the heat up even more.  We have to be proactive, rather than reactive.

These are just 3 boundaries to set up to be successful as a person and in youth ministry.  But they are not the only ones.  So, what do you think?  What are some other boundaries you need to set up so that you can have a healthy personal and ministry life?


  • Review the 3 boundaries I suggested to set up.  How are you doing with those boundaries?  What changes do you need to make in order to have more healthy relationships and a more healthy life?
  • Suggest another boundary to set up.  Again, there are more out there and we need to be encouraging each other so that we can be as effective as possible.  Post a comment if you have one.

Tom Pounder

A father of 4, Tom is the Online Campus Pastor as well as Social Media Director at New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, VA. He blogs, vlogs, periscopes and podcasts regularly about student and online ministry stuff. Check out his work at YMSidekick.com and on iTunes (search YMSidekick).

One thought on “3 Boundaries to set up

  • January 19, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Great article! These are 3 boundaries that all youth pastors should set up for themselves, follow, and not compromise on!


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