We are honored to have Jelly Valimont, author and speaker, and leader of our private Facebook group: Silently Bleeding: Hope for the Pastor’s Widow, share this guest post with us today.
Being in ministry is difficult, challenging, and at times frustrating. It is even more so when people are involved! Seriously. Someone once told me that people will take everything you allow them to take and will then ask for more. That is why it is important for us to establish personal and ministry boundaries in our lives. When I was a young pastor’s wife, no one ever told me that I needed boundaries, so I established walls. Once I figured out that there was a difference, I was able to establish healthy boundaries that carried me through some very difficult times.
There is a difference between boundaries and walls. First of all, a boundary marks the limit of an area, a dividing line, lets others know how we feel, what we expect, and does it all with respect. Secondly, a wall doesn’t just point out a limit but it also protects and offers privacy. We need both in our lives: boundaries and walls. It’s when people do not respect the boundary then a wall becomes necessary!
Do you remember the old television show called “Home Improvement?” In the show, there was a neighbor, Wilson W. Wilson, who stood on one side of a fence, never showing anything other than his eyes. His voice was muffled and his face was obscured. Too often we face our church people over the top of a fence, never allowing them to see the ‘real’ us because we have put up walls or fences rather than boundaries. To be healthy and to keep this from happening, we should establish clear and concise boundaries early in our relationships, so walls do not become necessary!
How do we do this?
1. Determine what God has called you to do. Sometimes, due to the size of the church or the lack of volunteers, it is necessary to do everything. Or is it? Maybe we need to take a step back and determine if it is really you that God has called to teach the Sunday School class, lead the worship, teach children’s church, and be the church secretary too. Maybe God has called you to one thing rather than everything. I cannot determine what God’s call is on anyone’s life other than my own, but I do know that God said in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” If it is too difficult to pull the proverbial load, maybe it is not God’s load you are pulling, but man’s.
Once you have determined what God’s call is for you, believe in yourself and in your call. God does not call you to fail but He calls you to excellence. Do all you can to excel in your call: study, pray, deepen your walk with the Lord, and share what He is doing in your life.
2. There will be people who want to tell you what God wants you to do, simply because of your position or because they don’t want to do it. Be prepared to say, “No.” If that is not accepted, be prepared to say, “NO!” or “NO, NO, NO.” That’s a definite boundary.
3. Once you have said, “no,” don’t be motivated by guilt to change your decision. Don’t give in continuously or you will have established a boundary that can easily be crossed over. One of the things I found after 40 years in ministry is that people often expected me to do something that God has already spoken to them about doing. If I capitulated, it took them off the hook with God. One of the reasons why it is important to know what God has called you to do is so you can release others to do what He has called them to do!
4. If you or your husband are staff members, one of the most important things you can do for your ministry is to be supportive. You may not have a leading role, but the supportive role is just as important. This is especially true for young wives, moms. Remember that everything rises and fall with leadership. We need to also remember that everything we do sends a message. What message are you sending as a young mom? A young wife? If you do not go to church because you are tired, you are also giving other young moms and wives an excuse to stay home. If you do not attend church because your kids need to get in bed early, you are giving others the credence to do the same. While it is necessary that we do what God has called us to do personally, it is also necessary that we show support to our husband and our ministry. Romans 8:11 says, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.” That simply means that if you are weary, if your kids are weary, God can give you strength! Sometimes, we need the strength of God to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes, we simply need to push through and sacrifice for the cause of the kingdom! Ouch.
By necessity, I established boundaries in the last church that my husband and I pastored. It was only when I drew a line in the sand and someone crossed it or kicked the sand around, that I built a wall. Remember, a boundary can be moved or adjusted. I did move and adjust some boundaries as it became necessary. However, necessary walls were built and often impenetrable, especially with some people. Allow me to give you some examples of boundaries. This is not a complete list and should not be considered as necessary for every woman. These are what were important to me at the time.
1. NO ONE told me how to raise my children or were free to discipline them. That meant church leadership, church people or family members. That was a definite boundary. If anyone tried to cross over or remove that boundary, they found a woman dressed for war and not very spiritual. My children needed to know that they were protected and were not fair game for anyone who thought they might be misbehaving. In addition, the behavior of my kids was not up for speculation because they were the pastor’s kids.
2. NO WOMAN met with my husband alone, no matter how much counseling she needed. If she needed to tell him about her horrid sex life or unfaithful husband, she did it either in front of me or his secretary. Let me tell you, that cut down on a lot of unnecessary, trashy information being shared with him.
3. No matter what was going on in the office, if I called, my call was given priority and absolutely no one could tell me that my husband was unavailable.
4. NO ONE talked negatively to me about my husband or the sermons he preached unless they wanted to also share it with him.
5. NO ONE was allowed to share negative information or offenses with me about our church staff unless they were also willing to confront the issues with that person. Whenever anyone told me something (gossip), I quickly explained to them that they had 24 hours to address the issue with the staff person or I would. This cut down on a lot of conversations that could destroy the unity in the body of Christ.
6. My husband and I shared our passwords and pass codes with one another. At any time, Randy could ask to see my cell phone or computer and look at my text messages, my calls, my emails, or my internet searches. I could do the same with his cell phone and computer. There were times we would randomly ask for one another’s electronics and search through them. It was not that we didn’t trust one another but we wanted each other to know what was going on in the other’s life and that there were no secrets kept from one another. This boundary was established early in our journey through the electronic world. No secrets, no opportunity for failure.
7. Protecting our marriage and our home was very important to us, so we did not allow movie channels in our home. Too often, movie subscriptions include pornography, and we did not want the possibility of us or our children inadvertently stumbling across it.
8. If there was ever a person of the opposite sex that made us feel uncomfortable or unduly flattered, we shared it with one another. We also made sure the other person knew that we were unavailable for any type of indiscretion. There was one time that a woman in our church told Randy that she was attracted to him. When he responded by telling her would never be attracted to her, she was very offended. In all honesty, she was fishing but in the wrong pond. Randy immediately called me to his office, and I made sure she knew her fishing pole was broken. I then built a wall.
I could list many more boundaries, but I think you can get the gist of what I am saying: Boundaries are necessary for the health of you, your children, your marriage and your church family. When people know where they stand, there is less opportunity for confusion or unrealistic expectations being placed on you. Place a boundary so a wall is not necessary!
More from Jelly:
Feel free to check out her interview about Expectations of a Pastor’s Wife here: https://youtu.be/plUrEz9lGY
You can check out her latest book, Tapestry, on Amazon below:
Jelly’s website: ValimontMinistries.org