Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Setting up personal boundaries

The minister coming into hospice chaplaincy from the pastorate faces several blessed liberties: He/she can set personal boundaries … without guilt or condemnation; He/she works on a set schedule of when to start work and went to end work … without feeling a need to explain why work ended at 4:30 or 5 PM; He/she can take a weekend or two or three to enjoy downtime … without feeling guilty or as if your commitment to God was suffering. Several things I have noticed about former pastors: they are natural born Pleasers; they are given to guilt over non-essential matters; they are protective of themselves. They also are very good at concealing their insecurities. I was at a church recently and made an observation that disturbed me greatly. My wife and I walked past one of the ministers’ wives and I noticed the look of fear and uneasiness on her face. Perhaps she was having one of those days. My better judgment is that she is a barometer of what the church has done to her or her minister husband or to her school-aged children. Church can be a toxic place for ministers and their families. Men, being men, can compartmentalize things and trudge ever onward. Not so much their spouses. How would I know this to be true? For 25 years I served as a Senior Pastor. Let’s return to the original topic of personal boundaries. Let me list several key boundaries that are absolute musts: 1. Do not feel compelled to do funerals or memorial services on the weekend. You are the Chaplain, not the Pastor. Work with the family to have a service on a weekday. If you feel you must do the funeral/memorial service suggest an evening, but not a weekend. That is your time to recuperate from the spiritual drain of the work week. Protect it. Protect yourself. 2. Do not give your work cell phone number to a patient or family member. Let them know early in your relationship with them that if they need you to call the hospice number and your Team Assistant will get in contact with your with any message. Again, it is your responsibility to protect your time and not receive calls after hours from patients or family members. There is an on-call Chaplain to take calls after hours. 3. Begin your day on time and end your day on time. There are no extra points given for those who start early and work into the night. There is no Church Board or Deacon Board or any other board that is going to call you in for a stern talking to for not working 100 hours in a week’s time. 4. You are no longer the solver of everyone’s problems. The challenges you face with patients and their families have been there long before you came into their lives and there is just not enough time to “fix” them. You are not called to be a “Fixer”. You are called to be a Chaplain. Function in that role to the best of your ability and do not feel guilt because you can’t fix what you perceive to be broken. 5. You no longer are expected to be all things to all people. You are you. Be the best ‘you’ you can be. You are allowed your opinion. You are allowed to express concerns. You are allowed to disagree. Again, no board of any kind is going to call you in. Your emotional health is a necessity in hospice chaplaincy. Getting free of the chains that bound you and the ghosts of “What ifs” are now gone. You can embark on performing ministry in its purest sense. Relax, be the minister you envisioned yourself being when you first started out. The transition from the parish pastorate to the hospice chaplaincy will take upwards or a year to a year and a half. Once you have made that transition, you will walk and live in great freedom. Setting boundaries around your time, your activities, and your total self will come very naturally from that time forward. And, one more thing, be a source of encouragement to your pastor and spouse. They need you. Yes, I have made the assumption that you will attend worship somewhere. That is vital for your own spiritual growth and well-being. That is a boundary as well. Blessings, Chaplain Colleagues, for who you are and what you do.

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