Do Boundaries Make Us Rude?

Quick answer:  No.Herz am Gartenzaun

At a recent meeting, a group of church leaders talked about the gift of boundaries, and someone mentioned the very real notion that we might be considered rude if we keep healthy boundaries.  (Thank you M.)

Especially as pastors, we are expected to say “yes” to every request with a happy “I love Jesus” face.  And if we don’t, we are a disappointment.

Two fun examples from my parish ministry days:

  • The bride from my most recent wedding was back from her honeymoon one Sunday morning, and as I was about to enter the sanctuary to lead worship, she stopped me and wanted to show me her wedding pictures.  Worship was about to start and so I said, “Worship is about to start and I need to get to my seat.”  I never saw her again.  She sent me an email later, telling me how she had never experienced such a rude pastor and she thought that she and her new husband had been special to me.  She was showing me her wedding pictures as a favor to me because she knew I would want to see them, etc. etc. etc.
  • A church member asked me to go visit her boss in the hospital because her boss didn’t have a pastor and the boss was really sick and wanted to have a pastoral visit.  I visited the boss.  She was an atheist who was ticked off that I had dropped by.  Lesson learned. Every time after that – when I was asked to visit a parishioner’s unchurched father-in-law, next door neighbor, cousin, or college roommate – I would say that I would only visit at their request.  One person said – when I told her I would not be able to visit her babysitter’s mother in the hospital –   “I thought it was your job to visit people in need.”  Note:  I can’t humanly visit every person in need, especially when it’s not even their idea/expectation/request.

Good Boundaries  = Healthy Relationships.  We all know pastors (and others in helping professions) with terrible boundaries, and I’m not even talking about misconduct issues.

Even Jesus set aside some alone time.  And we aren’t Jesus.

Some people will consider us rude.  That’s okay.


3 responses to “Do Boundaries Make Us Rude?

  1. Good post! Even in retirement we need to establish healthy boundaries. I can’t respond to calls from former members who say they thought our “friendship” was more than that of most parishioners.


  2. In my ministry, in some smallish communities where there was a hospital, “all” the local pastors took turns visiting all the patients in the hospital, like a chaplain. Some of those visits didn’t go very well and were not welcome. But we did it anyway. I’m not sure about this as a boundary.


  3. I completely support what you say about boundaries and forgive me if your post doesn’t capture exactly what happened, but it strikes me that the rudeness you describe above isn’t to do with the boundaries themselves but rather the way in which we use them. So perhaps explaining why now isn’t a good time to look at photos but agreeing a better time would have helped your boundary and also given an opportunity to influence the newly wed – we have a responsibility to be ambassadors for Christ and the church, don’t we?


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