How to Define Boundaries
For Effective Ministry

All professions have defined professional boundaries.

Except for Ministry!!

For example...sexual guidelines,especially related to teenage sexuality in Christian youth ministry, have not been defined. And the church/child relationship has often been sexually volatile...unsafe for both child and minister.

As a result... priest abuse and other clergy abuse of adolescents has been the most common...but not the only...serious boundary violation in the Christian churches.

This site explores fully these and other malpractice issues relevant to ministry and what to do about them.

(Click on the tabs below to open a panel. Reclick to close to minimize scrolling.)

Use this site to make your ministry reliable in God's eyes

The site is organized as a series of mini-workshops or seminars. These can be used for personal self-supervision and education.

Across the top under the images are a series of general pages on a boundary topic relevant to ministry.

When you click on one of those boundary areas...for example "Youth" a new page appears with a general introduction to boundaries in ministry to youths. On the left side...you will see navigation buttons with pages relevant to the page you are viewing.

This organizes the site by topic so that you can have a fairly solid grasp of the ministry issues in that area.

In addition to self-supervision using the material...spiritual directors...formation personnel...parish personnel...can all use the material for seminars and lectures...and a minister may even develop sermons from the material...for example by referring to the section about our contract or covenant with God.

Reforming the Christian churches and protecting them from serious moral and legal boundary violations cannot be achieved by administrators writing policies about boundaries after violations occur. Only those in the field...working in the vineyard...can violate boundaries...and by knowing the legitimate boundaries of their ministry activities...only those ministers are in a position to restore moral credibility to the churches.

The twin ideas (thought viruses really) that "everything is ministry"and "anything can be ministry" makes "ministry" the most overused...misused... undefined word in all of Christendom...UNTIL NOW!

Here are the four fundamental definitions necessary for ministry that will help keep ministers from falling into error...and making the ministry unreliable in fulfilling its divine purpose. Without any one of them ministers are skating on thin spiritual ice (Mt 7:21ff) and all ministry is at serious risk.

A much needed definition of "Religious Activity"

All ministry must be religious activity.

Very often, however, non-religious supporting activities for ministry get defined as ministry so that everything becomes ministry. (And "everything" by definition must include sex abuse, embezzlement, and so forth. And, indeed, there are examples on this site of these very things being done as ministry!

So, here is a definition of Religious Activity...

All Religious Activity is worship...

And all worship is

reverent devotion

to obeying God's Law...

Commitment to worship and obedience

are often expressed in ...

Rituals (as in Sunday Service)...

Ceremony (as in a Wedding)...

Education (as in Bible Study Groups)...

Personal actions (as in prayer and alms giving).

A much needed definition of "Ministry"

Confucius and Aristotle have both made clear the fact that you have nothing but chaos when words can mean anything at all...and this moral chaos is all too apparent in today's churches. So...

Here is a universal definition of ministry that quickly sorts out ministry from non-ministry and pseudo-ministry...Just as Jesus does (Mt 7:21ff)

Ministry is...

Religious Activity...

that brings BOTH the minister

and the people closer to God

You can see that there are three essential elements that must be present for something to be called ministry...

  1. It must be a religious activity
  2. It must be a social interaction involving BOTH minister and people
  3. Its form and purpose must be to increase closeness to God
Here's how quickly you can judge whether something is ministry or not...
  • ...Public liturgy IS ministry. Because it has elements 1,2,3.
  • ...Private prayer IS NOT ministry. It has elements 1,3 but not element 2...because the minister is not present to the people. One must be present to minister to others.
  • ...Coaching the youth group basketball team IS NOT ministry because it lacks elements 1 and 3. The form and purpose of coaching a basketball team is to win games (praying in the locker room for a win does not make it a religious activity).
  • ...Helping illegal aliens get social security numbers IS NOT ministry. It is secular social work. It has element 2, it is relational, but lacks elements 1 and 3. It is not religious activity and its purpose is political and economic.
Rational definitions are the first line of defense to prevent the disintegration of sound judgment...and the resulting meltdown of ministries.

This definition is an instant cure for the deadly thought virus that "everything is ministry" or its twin "anything can be ministry"

This definition shows that for most of the time...ministers are not doing ministry...but support activities that facilitate ministry.

A much needed definition of "Boundaries"

Boundaries are...

social rules that define

what can be done...

what cannot be done...

and what must be done...

in any social context.

So...you don't congratulate the widow at the funeral of her husband. And you don't offer your condolences to the groom at his wedding. You know the rules.

The golden rule...due unto others as you would have them do unto you...is not a useful guide in ministry because...until now...ministry has not had a universal definition.

Accordingly...some people have had illegal or immoral pseudo-ministries because they did unto others what they would have liked done unto themselves.

You will read the case of Father Mike on this site where he developed a ministry (that's what he called it!) to the sexual awakening of teenagers. Father Mike enjoyed his youthful sexual abuse at the hands of his pastor and wanted to pass the experience on to youths in his mis-named "ministry".

Like it or not ministers are "Professionals"

A professional is...

A member in one of...

the learned professions

trained to actively apply

a specialized body

of knowledge.

Anyone who tries to divorce ministry from the learned professions because it doesn't sound like a sufficiently religious definition has the burden of explaining why ministers have so many high-level academic degrees: D.Min, D.D., D. Theol, D.C.L., etc.

Clearly ministers are credentialed in and practice one of the oldest learned professions.

However, they do not subscribe to a controlling code of ethics...not even the Ten Commandments...so that the secular civil and criminal law must be called upon directly to regulate ministers who malpractice.

The lack of defined boundaries in ministry has nearly annihilated the credibility and moral authority of church leaders. This leads naturally to the question...

Can God rely on YOU to bring his people safely home?

The good news is that the situation is far from hopeless!

Because properly defined professional boundaries go a long way to prevent the abuse of power by those with authority...divine or secular...who intervene as trusted authorities in the lives of other people.

It is clear from decades of malpractice that ministry...with no pre-defined professional or sexual boundaries...often proceeds on little more than good intentions... piety...and a kind of quasi-mystical rhetoric...and apologies after the fact.

Our purpose is to help ministers prevent malpractice by first acquiring useful methods of thinking and judgment formation so the people are not harmed...the ministry is not derailed...the minister is not jailed...and God's intentions are fulfilled in the world...through those he calls to be his ministers.

And we will get these boundaries from the Word of God itself...which could not be plainer or simpler to understand...

"If you intend to enter into life...keep the Commandments (Mt 19:17)

With these effective and simple to use methods...ministers will acquire a clear understanding of what ministry is...what it is not...what its professional and sexual boundaries are ...and why they are crucial to protect and enhance any undertaking ...especially ministry and its divine purpose.

The Boundary Hunter ministry newsletter...tips...techniques...articles.
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