This week’s Ponderings is brought to you by my Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Ministries assignment! Consider it a “this I believe” moment about what an ideal, healthy congregation should look like.
I strongly believe that a healthy congregation is a congregation with a shared ministry, a congregation in which the mission and vision are articulated by all the people in the congregation and its minister, and in which all parties in the congregation are responsible for contributing towards the revealing of this mission through their own personal ministries, or offerings (financial, physical, intellectual/emotional, etc.), to the community. In my perception, it is in this responsibility towards the mission that we find the need for establishing healthy boundaries in order for the congregation to flourish, and for the minister to remain healthy and vibrant.
David C. Olsen and Nancy G. Devor, in their book Saying No to Say Yes, begin their first chapter with examples of two ministers that have reached burn-out, exhaustion, and hopelessness about their ministries. They have even neglected their own spiritual practices and self-care. It appears to me that the congregants placed too much responsibility on the ministers, and the ministers took on too much responsibility for the success of the community rather than teaching the community how to contribute responsibly towards the mission themselves and helping them develop a culture of shared power dynamics. Within the articulation of responsibilities and decision-making powers should also be the explicit and intentional conversations about boundaries and caring for one another.
The minister, as the representative of the sacred and the divine, is the congregation’s model of grace and humility, love and compassion, and the embodiment of the shared and holy values of their people. Through this sort of leadership, rather than one that is ego-centered and controlling (as in the first case study of the article “The Integrity of Ministry” by Michael Jinkins), the minister needs to lead culture change, helping each individual to cultivate an awareness of their personal ministries as they relate to the mission, and to understand their own ministerial role as leading the people towards the work rather than doing all the work oneself.
What do you think? Is any of this recognizable at UUCL? Please feel free to share your thoughts with me!