What Professional Boundaries
Are Necessary For Ministry?

When you raise the question of professional boundaries with ministers they are likely to be skeptical because... they say...they are not professionals...in the ordinary understanding of that term.

However...the ordinary definition of a professional describes most ministers with great precision. They are...like other professionals...members of a learned profession.

After all...isn't it true that most ministers have some sort of formal credential like...Master or Doctor of Divinity...Doctor of Pastoral Counseling...Doctor of Ministry...Doctor of Canon Law...or some other formal certification such as Spiritual Director...or Youth Minister?

Are these not members of learned professions?  Of course they are.

Trouble is the code of ethics that define boundaries in the other learned professions is often lacking in ministry.

What's the difference between
ministers and other professionals

Unlike members of other learned professions...a minister, who by definition is a professional Christian, has more requirements for a boundary inventory that come from the covenant with God.  

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Additional requirements for ministers


For example..."Thou shalt not commit adultery"...is certainly binding on God's chosen ministers in their work.  Though it is not mentioned...nor could it be...in the codes of professional boundaries of other learned... non-ministry professionals.

Another example would be "Thou shalt not bear false witness."

Corporate professionals...however...typically exaggerate...thorough advertising...the true value...or the harmful side effects...of their products and services.  (For an example of this...Google fluoride research to learn that fluoride is a toxic waste by-product sold as a health product.)

And so...the minister is held to a higher standard than the typical learned professional.



However, it is the "lower standards" of professional boundaries that are routinely ignored in ministry activity.  And that often leads to violating the higher standards imposed on ministers.

And these include violations of effective-time-management boundaries by both the minister and the parishioners...which is a precursor to ministerial burnout.  

The other standard of professional boundaries that is often ignored by ministry professionals is the context and location of ministry activity.

The context of ministry activity can give a whole new meaning to the situation. It is romance if it takes place in a restaurant over a candle lit dinner.  Or if it takes place in a hot tub using a theraphy technique like reparenting.  Or if it is outside of normal administrative procedures as happens in church embezzlement.  Or if it is a public sacramental ritual like anointing the sick turned into a private intimate ritual.  Or if it is a private correspondence through email that results in profesional boundaries email violations.

Ministry boundaries should include both time and location boundaries because...the clinical records of ministers sent for evaluation and treatment show that...violating those boundaries often leads to violating the ones imposed by God.

You can refresh your memory about those divine boundaries...which form the basis of all interpersonal boundaries if you go from this professional boundaries page to moses and the Ten Commandments page.

You may also see how the hierarchical boundaries of catholic ministry enabled sexual abuse and helped it to remain secret.


Do your own ministry evaluation by noting how many situations call for good professional boundaries.



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