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.)
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.
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...
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)
You can see that there are three essential elements that must be present for something to be called ministry...
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.
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".
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.
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.
"Through the Holy Spirit, God bless you and all your ministry! Your servant in Christ, Rev. Javed Younus Lahore, Pakistan
"Thank you for your work and website. I often share your teachings with our seminary students." Rev. R. Goldie
"I find that all your topics are presented very well and are easily understood. Peace." Marie Ballmann,OSB Spiritual Director
I can safely say parenting might be a ministry. Certainly more parents need to be canonized! The principles you set out are clear and simple. They can be most helpful on this road to developing good, honest and spiritual human beings. Judy Burns Parent