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When you work for the Church in some way, you need to set good boundaries (and stick to them) to be fruitful…

When you work for the Church in some way, you need to set good boundaries (and stick to them) to be fruitful…

If you work in a parish, diocese, apostolate, or ministry, then you probably know what it is like to work long hours and feel the weight having to get things done. You probably have a heart for serving God and the Church. But, you may feel over-worked, under-appreciated, and stretched thin.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

  • You can say no.
  • You can stop doing things that aren’t important things. 
  • You can set good boundaries and stick to them.
  • You can even be much more fruitful, if you learn to do these things well!

It is not selfish or uncharitable to say “no”, set clear personal boundaries, or to stop doing something that takes away your time from more important things. In fact, it means you value what you do so much, that you have chosen a better way.

I once coached a parish worker who felt so burdened she didn’t feel she was fruitful at all. I had her log her time over the course of the next week. We then talked about how she was spending her time and how she might free herself up to do more evangelization, discipleship, and prayer. She told me she wanted to do this, but felt she couldn’t give up anything. One of these things was flowers. Yes, flowers. Her parish had a long tradition of having beautiful flower arrangements donated by the older women of the parish. They would bring them every week. The parish worker felt it was her responsibility to water the flowers, to keep them alive. I told her she needed to let the flowers go, but she just couldn’t do it. We talked about getting volunteers to hel with the flowers. Still, she couldn’t. Finally, I told her, “if the flowers have to die so that another person can live forever, so be it!” She finally let the flowers off her to do list.

Boundaries help define what you are able to do well and what you are not able to do well. You are limited and can’t do it all, even when it feels like you have to or the ministry will come crumbling down. Remember, Jesus set boundaries too! He needed time to pray, be alone, rest, and recover. He didn’t just burn the candle at both ends and have nothing left to offer those he ministered to. Jesus knew that good self-care was an important part of being equipped to help others. He also knew his human limitations and set boundaries.

There are always challenges to saying “no”. Sometimes it is a choice between two good things and you feel you have to do both things. Still, you need to discern not whether something is good, but is it of God. A good thing vs. a God thing. Aim for things of God and you will rarely go wrong.

Futhermore, if you need help in saying “no” or knowing when to stop putting time, resources, and effort into something, then here are a few tips.

1 – Know and use your mission as a boundary. Why does your parish, diocese, apostolate, or ministry exist? If it shares in the ministry of Jesus – then he has already given us a mission statement. Paul VI put it this way, the Church “exists in order to evangelize.” Since this is the case, what things do not directly fit into this mission? What serves this mission best? What do I need to stop doing, which isn’t helping me (personally) fulfill this mission? 

Now, there are always details we must do. Administrative tasks, budget, meetings, etc. But, most of our time should be spent in service to the mission. If we use a mission as a standard of conduct, then we are able to aim for a vision. That is, a better future, where things are much brighter.

2 – Properly define what fruitfulness looks like. Fruitfulness, according to Jesus and the Catholic Church is a transformed life. Thus, it is measured primarily in conversion. That could be an initial conversion (where someone decides to follow Jesus for the first time) or a deeper ongoing conversion (where someone grows closer to Jesus). We can’t be fruitful if we don’t properly define what our goal is!

3 – Work from a place of humility. Your job isn’t to save the world, that is for God to do. Neither is it to fix all the problems around. Furthemore, you are limited and have needs. Take time today to reflect on what you need to say “no” to, so that you can have a bigger “yes” to Jesus and his mission in your work. Jesus doesn’t like burnout and neither should you.

4 – Seek out someone who can help you walk through these issues. Talk with someone who can hold you accountable, has been in the trenches too, and knows what it is like. Having a good professional mentor or coach can be invaluable. 

5 – Never neglect your prayer life. Never. How can you be fruitful if you aren’t tapped into the source of spiritual power? You can’t. Too often we try to do things by ourselves and by our way of thinking. God wants to work through you, but he needs your consent to do so. Prayer allows us to open ourselves up to being vessels of his grace.

“And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him followed him, and they found him and said to him, “Every one is searching for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” -Mark 1:35-39

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