A Reflection on Season 1, Episode 4: A Boundaried Ministry: Part-time Work in Small Churches
by The Rev. Canon Rebekah Bokros Hatch
“There’s no part-time work; only part-time pay.” If I had a nickel for every time some rattled off that phrase, am I right? I relish hearing Stacy and Leyla talk in this episode about just how possible it is to maintain good boundaries, especially around time, in small church ministry. It’s not always easy. And sometimes it takes work; but, I hope listeners hear support for maintaining time boundaries for paid work in the church.
And I wonder if we neglect our own boundaries, particularly time boundaries, because we view doing so as selfish. We’ve been conditioned to think that, by the way. In this episode Leyla and Stacy explore how boundaries can work to the benefit of everyone in a faith community. The possibility exists for lay leadership to grow and feel empowered. The possibility exists for ordained leaders to explore other spaces in their lives that bring them joy or long for their attention. And ultimately, as Leyla lays out, this gives ordained leaders, congregational leaders, and congregations a greater chance at doing ministry together.
Leyla offers a personal “Aha!” moment about sharing vs. processing experiences with her church members, and I really appreciated this distinction. Trust and intimacy are built when we share our stories with one another; but ordained congregational leaders also wear a different hat in the parishes in which we work. Part of maintaining boundaries is wrestling with this dynamic of desiring intimacy and trust as it intersects with the reality of processing hard things. This begs the question: do you have a space to process hard things? A therapist? A Spiritual Director? A colleague group? Some of what we’ve truly benefited from in the bi-monthly Small Church Chats is having that space to process. We hope you have a similar space yourself. You’ll hear more from us about creating additional space for small groups, but in the meantime, check in about your systems for processing and reach out for support.
We’re reminded in this episode that boundaries and the ensuing ripple effects are something we’re always negotiating – don’t beat yourself up if you’re not getting it just right all the time. I hope you don’t hear this episode and think that we’re experts – if you left with that thought, you didn’t make it all the way to the end, where Leyla unpacks the complexity of all of this. But, we hope that this episode gives you at least a bit more support and validation for getting curious about boundaries. Where are they now? How might you try on shifting them a bit to free up more space for something else that, say, brings you joy? What are you afraid of? What life-giving might spring up from this examination? And SCBI is here to help….reminding you that God is walking right alongside all the good and holy work you’re doing.
Questions for Discussion and Further Thought
- “Well-boundaried part-time parochial ministry is a gift to the priest AND people. It frees both priest and people up to the work of God in the world.” What shifts as you think about your own context when you hear Stacy echo these words back to Leyla?
- Where did you learn your lessons around boundaries? How have those shifted? What do you notice when boundaries in your life “get out of whack”?
- If you are an ordained minister working in a paid part-time church position, how would establishing firmer work boundaries free up time and energy to tend to other spaces in your life?