Healthy Boundaries in Ministry

Published: March 2, 2016

SubstandardFullSizeRenderI recently completed a class at Wake Divinity entitled “Healthy Boundaries: Ministry, Professional Ethics and Leadership.” The weekend class had caught my attention solely with the word “boundaries.” As a future leader in ministry I wanted to know just what this means for me.

To be an effective leader I want to be sure I am keenly aware of my boundaries when engaging with all I encounter. With so many avenues to be involved in the lives of others, where is the imaginary line that we should not cross? I am an active user of social media and enjoy reading about the lives of my friends and commenting on events in the world. There are so many opportunities to say the wrong thing, however, that could potentially cause harm to someone. Thus, careful consideration about what I say on this platform should always be exercised. Am I willing to give up my freedom of expression for the sake of being an ethical ministerial person?

If I am to be a leader, then I must be willing to accept this restraint. However, that does not mean that I will be silent when I see injustices continuing to prevail in our world. In every part of our world there are people going without food, people living in dire poverty, people being forced from their homes in countries where war is a daily threat, people being arrested and killed simply because of the color of their skin, people wrongfully being imprisoned, people who are victims of the effects of climate change and people who turn their heads when a city’s water system is toxic to the people who depend on it for their very lives. I will not keep silent about the abuse and mistreatment of our beautiful home that God so graciously provided for us and not protest when chemicals leach out into our rivers or foods are being modified to the point of the destruction of necessary diversification for their existence and ours. I cannot keep silent about such things.

Will this mean I am crossing boundaries? I have heard that some view such topics as being in the political arena and that persons in ministerial roles should not be involved in politics publicly. I have to disagree. The words of Paul in Romans 12:2 tell us we should not be conformed to the patterns of the world, and Jesus himself took some pretty strong action when he overturned the tables of the money changers (Matt. 21:12). Though I would not suggest that we go around physically crossing boundaries to protest injustices and causing harm to the property of others, I believe we are compelled to use our voices in protest, even if it may be at the risk of crossing some imaginary boundary in the minds of others.

Jesus healed the sick and associated with those whom others thought he should not. He crossed a boundary when he spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-26). While I know there are indeed certain boundaries I must not ever cross, I hope that my ministry takes me across those that will make a difference in the lives of those who are in need of the positive changes that occur as a result of my stepping over.

Abby Catoe
Second Year



Abby Catoe is a native North Carolinian who is deeply concerned about the environment and the growth of sustainable, healthy foods that are within reach of all people. Abby loves the outdoors and happiest in the sunshine spending time with her family camping, kayaking, riding horses or taking a leisurely bike ride. I want to help others to learn to appreciate our earth so that they will love it as much as I do.