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Shift Ministry Models

Boundaries and Christian Minimalism

Setting Intentional Guidelines for Simplification
by Becca Ehrlich | June 6, 2022

“Minimalism is boring! I don’t want to get rid of everything I own.”

“Setting boundaries is selfish, and if I set boundaries I will push others away.”

There are many assumptions that pop up when people hear about minimalism and boundaries. Often people assume that minimalism means living a life devoid of any possessions or joy; boundaries can bring up the image of someone being incredibly strict and not connected to anyone at all. These assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth! Minimalism and boundaries invite us to live a more intentional and meaningful life.

Intentional Focus

Minimalism focuses on the aspects of life that matter most and intentionally removes everything else, making space for what is most important in our lives. Christian minimalism lifestyle and worldview offer us an opportunity to set boundaries so we can live more fully into the abundant life Jesus wants for us (John 10:10). When we establish boundaries, we can focus more readily on what’s most important. Those who live as Christian minimalists—myself included—simplify their lives in order to find more joy and meaning. In light of consumer culture’s push for us to accumulate, we assess the following things and pare down to only what adds value:

Possessions
Time obligations
Media usage
Money spending habits

Even if one isn’t ready to jump in and live as a Christian minimalist fully, everyone can benefit from simplifying and making the most important aspects of life a priority.

Setting Boundaries for Myself as a Path to Minimalism

Adopting a Christian minimalist lifestyle means that I am much more aware of establishing healthy boundaries for myself. As someone with a chronic illness, my energy is not infinite, and I have to be intentional about not over-committing my time and energy on things that aren’t related to using the spiritual gifts God has given me and my major passions. I need time to recharge. Jesus did that constantly—we see him taking breaks to pray and check in with the Father constantly in the Gospels. So if Jesus, God in human form, needed to recharge and spend time in prayer, I most definitely need to do that as a regular human!
Setting boundaries on spending and saving money is also a huge part of this Christian minimalism journey for me— I am more aware of my shopping and consumption habits and now make decisions more intentionally.
Here are some simple and practical ways to set Christian minimalism-informed boundaries for ourselves, with others, and within our congregations and faith-based organizations. Remember that you are not your job title, socioeconomic status, accomplishments, salary, or material possessions. You are a beloved child of God. That is your core identity. Take an honest look at one or more of these categories to start your own boundary-setting journey.

Setting Boundaries for You

Media Use: Notice the time you spend scrolling on social media or watching other types of media. Pare down your media usage, keeping in mind what adds value or what you most enjoy. Consider short-term media and/or social media fasts (for a few hours, for a day, etc.).
Simplify: Donate or throw away any possessions that you have not used in a set period of time that makes sense for your life and context (ex: a year). Don’t fall into “keeping up with the Joneses.” Though consumer culture has convinced us we have to compete with others regarding material possessions, house size, salary, or job title, we are called by God to do the opposite and live more simply.
Budget: Make a realistic budget and stick to it. Notice where entrenched spending habits result in money being spent impulsively.

Setting Boundaries With Others

Say NO: Stop saying yes to every obligation sent your way. Making space in your schedule will make more time for God, loved ones, self-care, and other important aspects of your life. Pray over your schedule, assess it, and minimize it. Start saying no to those obligations that do not add value or match your spiritual gifts.
Prioritize service to others: Find ways to serve others. Match your spiritual gifts and passions with existing needs to make our world more of how God wants it to be.
Gifts: Make it clear with loved ones that you would prefer the types of gifts you would prefer that support a minimalist lifestyle: experiences, consumables, or donations to charity.

Setting Boundaries within Congregations and Faith-Based Organizations

Hold and Fold: Assess the organization’s calendar and budget. Have conversations about which programs and ministries are worth keeping, and which have run their course or no longer fit the mission of the organization.
Those Closets! Go through any storage areas and remove anything that is outdated, worn out, or not being used anymore.
Creation Care: Find ways to encourage Creation care by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Maybe you can even borrow things for events.

Exploring ways to live a Christian minimalist life yourself, with others, and within organizations may seem daunting if it is a shift in thinking for you. However, making the shift across all aspects of life has the potential to allow you and the organizations you are involved in to focus on God’s mission and bring more peace, calm, and health to life.

About the Author

Becca Ehrlich

Becca Ehrlich is an ELCA pastor who is a trained coach and serves on the ELCA Coaching Leadership Team. She currently serves as Associate Dean for Community Life at General Theological Seminary in New York City. She blogs about minimalism from a Christian perspective at www.christianminimalism.com. Her book, Christian Minimalism: Simple Steps for Abundant Living, was released last May.

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