Whether you are serving in youth ministry, children’s ministry, or family ministry, you are now doing ministry differently. The challenges are the same that we face, but each of us is experiencing this time a little differently. Some of us are excited about the opportunity to experiment. There are those of us who are overwhelmed with anxieties. Many of us are missing the face to face interactions with our kids and students.
One challenge that we are all facing is – boundaries.
Our new ministry environment, combined with working from home and social isolation, is a perfect storm for failed boundaries that lead to increased depression. We in ministry must always have healthy boundaries. I would argue that those boundaries are now no longer helpful but rather are a necessity.
Here are five ideas to help you stay hopeful, fruitful, and productive.
5 Ways to Keep Healthy Boundaries in Social Distancing Ministry
Create A Designated Work Space
Working for the home can be an exciting and even novel idea at first. Who doesn’t want to work in their PJs? The reality is that the novelty wears off after a day or two.
When you work from home, you are always at work. In your living room, you could be working. Reading your child a bedtime story, you technically could still be at work.
If at all possible, set up a space that is your workspace. Space where you can walk in with the mindset that you will get work done. The best part of a designated workspace is this; when you leave that space, you have left work.
You do not need a huge, fancy area. A spare bedroom or corner of a room will work just fine. The point is this – you need a place to begin and a place to leave your work.
Set Digital Alarms
If space is challenging for you to find, or if you have trouble leaving that workspace, then consider alarms.
Allot yourself the hours you will work and set alarms. Maybe you set one alarm at Noon for lunch and another at 1 pm. Give yourself a full hour for lunch – do not cut your lunch short.
Use your alarms as a way to help your mind shift in focus. When an alarm goes off, telling you it is time to quit, then be done with work. Trust Jesus in this moment. God is still at work even when you need to take a break.
Find A Rhythm
With everything in the world feeling so out of control, give your day a sense of order and control. Consider developing a rhythm for your day.
Wake up and get ready. Be sure to shower, get dressed, and do everything you need to do to feel prepared for a productive day. Walk your dog in the morning and the evening, schedule your exercise and your meals. Spend time investing your spiritual life.
Getting fully ready and creating a sense of control in your day will help you stay motivated, positive, and keep you from mindlessly scrolling all day on social media.
Can I be real honest for a moment? Your production level on Instagram Live, Facebook Live, or Zoom means less to your students, kids, and families than you realize.
A fancy game might feel great. A well-run Zoom gathering helps. Yet these pale in comparison to opportunities for genuine connection in these times.
Most of us do not serve churches with large budgets, fancy technology, and production staff members. It doesn’t take long to browse Facebook groups to see people setting up elaborate computer and streaming setups. That’s great, but it can be expensive and costs you a lot of time. Knowing what these larger churches are doing can make us feel guilty for not creating such extensive setups.
You are already spending a lot of time doing usual sermon prep, but now you add video editing, digital game prep, and communicating the many Zoom meeting invitations.
Produce the best you can and stop comparing to everyone else in these Facebook groups. Your students, kids, and families value you more than any production.
Produce what you can, love with all you’ve got, and believe that the Holy Spirit is working through you.
Be Gentle With Yourself
You are probably working more now than ever. You probably miss your kids, students, and families. You may even miss your friends and family.
Some of us feel overwhelmed by the weight of the current situation while also wondering if we will continue to be employed by our churches in a few weeks. Friends, you are carrying a heavy weight. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself the grace that you are likely extending to others.
Do what you can, any way you can, and believe that it is enough. Jesus is working, and you are participating.
In case no one has told you, you are doing a good job. Keep up the excellent work. We, at the Youth Ministry Institute, are rooting for you! We believe in you. Now, be gentle with yourself and trust that God is working through you.
Rev. Brian Lawson is the Director of Leadership Development and Client Services for YMI and has served in youth ministry since 2004. He also serves as a pastor in the Florida Conference of the UMC. Brian holds a Master of Ministry with a focus in organizational culture, team-based leadership, change, conflict, and peacemaking from Warner University. In addition to his degrees from Warner, he studied Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. Click the social links below to engage with Brian.