Clergy friends … I’ve got a great book for you to read!
Saying No To Say Yes: Everyday Boundaries and Pastoral Excellence
David C. Olsen and Nancy G. Devor
This book was recommended on one of the clergy groups I am in on Facebook and the title immediately intrigued me because the notion of balance and boundaries is something I have always struggled with. I kind of liken it to the fact that I am perpetually losing ten pounds; I am perpetually trying to find balance in my life. Over. And over. And over again.
I think part of me is a little bit jaded when it comes to the traditional teaching of boundaries because it always seems so black and white – don’t be friends with church members, always take your day off, keep everything separate, etc. etc. It’s not that I disagree with any of those ideas – but, like anything, when ideas intersect with people, well, sometimes the execution is off. It’s human nature. I live in the same town where I go to church. I see my people all the time. It’s impossible to keep these black and white boundaries. I want to set healthy boundaries, but I’m not always sure what they look like in my context.
What I really liked about this book is the fact that it acknowledges and owns the gray area. And rather than saying “don’t do this” or “don’t do that” it goes deeper and talks about the importance of knowing who you are and the systems that have shaped you so you know how you will react to different situations. It also talks about the importance of knowing who your church community is and the systems that have been in place in its history so that you understand those patterns of behavior.
There’s a lot of great stuff in the book around boundaries, over-functioning, anxiety, differentiation, communication and the need for a peer group. There are parts of it that are pretty heavy on the psychological theory that were a little over my head, but there are also a ton of simple case studies that really resonated with me.
I think this is a good read for any clergy struggling to find balance right now – any type of balance. As the landscape of ministry continues to change, the goal is healthy clergy and healthy churches and I really do think it’s possible!
Congregations can get caught in the same kinds of false understands as clergy. Part of our job as clergy is to model an understanding of who saves us – and for what. It is our job to preach, teach, and live a gospel that doesn’t depend on human over-functioning but on God’s grace. (pg.107-108)