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Shift Ministry Models

Dare to Hold Your Boundaries

“Dare to Lead” Facilitator Names What’s at Stake
by Sarah Ciavarri | May 25, 2022

Boundaries can change your life. Establishing, maintaining, and adjusting boundaries can help us move from feeling trapped, resentful, stuck, or taken advantage of to experiencing freedom, empowerment, and real connection. For many of us, we’ve been hearing about establishing healthy boundaries for decades now. Church leaders across numerous denominations attend boundaries workshops so that power isn’t abused, so that church leaders don’t become enmeshed, so that we are being as healthy a Body of Christ as possible. As a bare minimum, we’ve learned that boundaries are good.

Yet for all the education, the training, the awareness of needing boundaries, many church leaders struggle to get specific about what behaviors they are okay with. 

For formal church leadership, there are boundaries pertaining to running a church well: never let a married couple be the only ones counting the offering money. Or taking good care of those who are vulnerable: always do background checks on volunteers working with youth. Or taking good care of our pastoral presence: always have a window in your church office door. Or being a trustworthy colleague: refuse to conduct funerals or weddings at a congregation you’ve left (refer them to their current pastor).  

Beyond these boundaries, I’ve learned to not be surprised when I’m leading a “Dare to Lead” workshop or an emotional intelligence training and participants struggle to come up with five clear specific boundaries—or even three—that will make their own lives better with people they find difficult. Many are flummoxed by the assignment and before I started my own journey with setting boundaries, I would have struggled too!

This teaches us a lot about the gap that exists between knowing boundaries are good and that we need them and being able to communicate these boundaries consistently and with clarity.  

Brené Brown in Atlas of the Heart defines a boundary as “what’s okay and what’s not okay.” That is simple, easy to remember, and can be a gut-check when we are in the moment. She provides examples of communicating one’s boundaries like

“It’s okay to change your mind. It’s not okay to assume that I’m okay with the changes without talking to me.”

“It’s okay to disagree with me, but it’s not okay to ridicule my ideas and beliefs.”

“It’s okay to be pissed. It’s not okay to raise your voice and pound on the table.”

In my book, Find Our Way to the Truth: Seven Lies Leaders Believe and How to Let Them Go, I share boundaries that we set within ourselves, in our thinking. When we gain clarity on what is life-giving for ourselves and allow ourselves to recognize when we feel angry, resentful, taken advantage of, or unsettled in our spirits, we gain deeper understanding of what we need and what a next good step will be. I share examples like:

“My passion doesn’t have to be your passion. Your passion doesn’t have to be mine.”

“I give myself as much love and grace as I give my children.

“I will not compare my life to the moments shared on someone else’s Facebook page.”

“I won’t let the parts of my past that make me cringe define how I show up today or in the future. I will love and learn from those parts.”

Boundaries are an internal and an external job. By changing our thoughts and how we talk to ourselves, we change what we are willing to tolerate. Then we communicate this. Establishing boundaries is never a once and done proposition. As we grow, mature, change or as the situation does, our boundaries can be reassessed. And we may course-correct several times as we learn new ways of showing up in our lives and ministries.

Since I’ve been living with boundaries, I have few moments when I feel like I just sold myself out. Like I betrayed myself. That I threw myself under the bus. That I broke trust with myself. When I rely on my discerned boundaries I can still get beaten up emotionally but I hold my head high because I know I’m modeling for my children, respect for myself. This modeling is important to me because I want them to respect themselves even when others don’t. That’s what boundaries are about: Living well. Loving well. Allowing good to be done. Being kind. Bringing our unique best to the world.

Your Turn

Register now to get on the waitlist for the next time we hold a Dare to Lead for Church Leaders course taught by Certified Daring Way Facilitator Sarah Ciavarri.

About the Author

Sarah Ciavarri

Sarah Ciavarri, M.Div. BCC, PCC, CDWF-C, CDTLF, loves seeing people get excited about their lives and futures. Sarah is a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator-Consultant, Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator, and a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation. For over a decade, Sarah has traveled nationally keynoting and facilitating workshops on resilience, vulnerability, and shame. Sarah has the unique honor of serving in a leadership position with the Daring Way™ as a consultant, coaching candidates through the steps of certification. Sarah is a faculty member with Coaching4Today’s Leaders and trains coaches. Sarah is the author of Find Our Way to Truth: Seven Lies Leaders Believe and How to Let Them Go. Currently, Sarah serves as Vice President of Spiritual Life for Cassia Care.

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