Real Answers From Real Ministers' Wives

Boundaries in Ministry

Q. When a church is growing quickly, how do you set boundaries for your family time without being expected to always be available for your congregation?

(Because we are a diverse community, below you will find a variety of opinions from a variety of pastors' wives. The opinions expressed below are solely held by their respective authors and not necessarily by Fishbowl Ministries.)


At our last location, we did experience a fast growth. We spoke often of Sundays being our family time (they only had a Sunday am service). We usually packed a picnic lunch and went for a drive. If anyone told us after the fact that they tried to get a hold of us, we *didn't* make any apologies for not being available.

Any additional time, we would plan together and go about it as we would if we weren't in the ministry. We've never had a problem of phone calls during meal times, or people showing up at in opportune times. We have always had an open door policy. On occasion there would be one who would try to abuse it, and we always dealt with it at the moment.

So I guess what has worked for us is setting the boundaries when necessary without announcing the boundaries (with the exception of our "day off") to the whole church.


We live by our home calendar. It is always what we go by when someone wants set up an appointment, or get together with us, etc. During busy times, early in the month, I block off sections of time by writing in "planned appt." Then, as the calendar starts getting crowded, with events, counseling, dinners, etc. we know that there are "blocks of time" that we have set up ahead of time for us to relax and spend time with our family, or each other. If someone wants us on those dates, we simply tell them we already have plans on the calendar for that day. No need to tell them what those plans are, because it doesn't matter, they're our plans. - Cali


I personally am a firm believer of "date night." If not careful, there'll be too much time spent apart from family and then the relationships of the home suffer. So, a day off and stick to it for family time and a night off just for husband/wife time to date each other....give each other time to talk and to romance each other a little bit. It will keep the relationship fresh and keep the devil from bringing outsiders into the relationship for temptation purposes, which could possibly destroy the marriage union.

As the church grows so does obligation. So it's necessary to make rules prior to the growth spurt.


Great idea, Cali! I love that "we already have plans" can work when your time is planned on the calendar! The above post is so correct that Date time is important.

Your husband's day off should be almost sacred! And I realize that with a growing congregation your husband might need to be a bit flexible with his "day off," but he absolutely must have one! And I do mean a whole day off... not just 8 hours he "steals" from several workdays.


My husband has one day off a week and it is sacred to us. There have been days when unexpected things happen and we just work around that. True emergencies can only be the exception. I am very fortunate -- not only does our congregation respect the day, but my employer does as well. When our children were growing up, they also would keep that time available so we could be together. Block the time off on your calendar, plan something together, and leave the cell phone off or at home.


It is important to put family first, and we need to take the time and set the date. - Sandy


We too, have a sacred day off -- no phone calls. (We unplug the phone and our cell phone is on for emergencies only, with one board member who has our number). The only time we break this day is for a true emergency.


While on vacation, my husband does not check church e-mails or voice messages. He makes our family and our time away a priority. Before he leaves for vacation, the church staff knows whom to contact in the event of a crisis at the church.


My husband and I are very careful about our day off. We do what ever it takes to have a family day. We shut off our phone, shut our garage door (so no one can see our car), close the drapes, or get out of town. Whatever it takes. The only time we don't do this is for emergencies. We really believe that no matter how busy we are or how much our people seem to need us, we must have time to recharge. I think I would go crazy without our family day.


Protecting the day off is important, but we've learned it's also essential to have boundaries in other areas. During a time of enormous church growth my husband was called upon to do dozens of weddings and many of them fell on holiday weekends. Our family time really suffered because of it, so we made a "no holiday wedding" policy. You'd be surprised how many people want to get married on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Weekend, or Fourth of July...they'll either find someone else to do it or reschedule--we've never regretted that decision.

My husband has also had to face the fact that he is not indispensable. Some people will make you feel like the only visit or phone call that really counts is one from the "senior pastor." For a while my husband bought into that and tried (in vain) to be all things to all people. It took a major (and I mean major) church crisis for him to realize that regardless of how hard you work, you will not begin to please everyone. It makes more sense to seek to please God, and that means having balanced priorities.

Also, when the church is really growing it's tempting to start thinking it must be a result of the great preaching or the spectacular pastor. Church growth is God's business and He is not dependent on us to make great things happen. Keeping our egos in check is critical, and allows us to invest time where it really matters.

Church members may act like they want SuperPastor (and super-pastor-families), but what they really need is a pastor's family who lives authentic, prioritized and ordered lives. Modeling this lifestyle is one of the best gifts we can give.


Something I want to add here - a boundary we set is that we definitely want to be involved in the community OUTSIDE the 4 walls of the church. This is why I'm a cub scout den leader, why we try to help on occasion with the PTO, etc.

We do not want to get so caught up in the church and work of the church that we neglect our family's other interests. There is a whole world outside, people who need to see the pastor's family being real as was mentioned before. And I think it can help relieve the myopia that can happen when all we do is church stuff.


Thank you to all the contributors. These are suggestions posted on our Message Board and used by permission. The name you see on some replies is their "message board identity".

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