Lutheran Church Extension Fund
Knowing where church ends and family begins.

Knowing where church ends and family begins.

It’s commonly called “the conflicting loyalties of church and home.”

The constant tug in both directions can make church work professionals feel like the whirling blades of a blender. The danger is that appropriate boundaries are disintegrated and church and home get mushed together into one indiscernibly muddled mess.

Here’s a few suggestions on how to set boundaries that help you avoid the pitfalls of pietism, over-commitment, performance anxiety and a moody atmosphere in your home and family life.

As usual, the Wellness Wheel serves as a guide to touch all the bases.

Boundary 1: Engagement. This is the vocational one. You’re committed to active and full participation in church life by nature of your call. Your family is often drawn in by a sense of duty. Clearly articulated boundaries help your family members participate in church life because they are led by the Spirit, not compelled by demands (explicit or implicit) made by the church. You’re guarding against over-commitment.

Boundary 2: Lifestyle. This is the spiritual one. Piety is a true witness to a living faith. Pietism is a “glittering image” intended to impress people. Life in the “fishbowl” produces a tempting compulsion toward pietism. Your family deserves the chance to live a life that reflects the true nature of who you are as maturing disciples of Jesus, and no more.

Boundary 3: Expectations. This is the baptismal one. At church you’ll be judged, to a large degree, on the performance of your duties. That’s not inappropriate. At home, you’re loved and accepted because of the grace of Christ you share together. Solid boundaries keep our homes places of sanctuary, peace, acceptance and love, a place for daily, unbounded refuge from unreasonable expectations.

Boundary 4: Confidentiality. This is the intellectual one. Michael Corleone, “The Godfather,” told his wife, “Don’t ask me about my business. Don’t ever ask me about my business!” Some things you know about church members you will never be able to share with family. Sometimes Carol and I would simply defend the confidentiality boundary by joking, (in my Al Pacino voice), “Don’t ask me..” and leaving it at that.

Boundary 5: Conflict. This emotional one is a hard one and takes effort, patience and prayer. The atmosphere at church can dramatically impact the mood in the home. I was often glad for the fifteen minute drive home that provided me a chance to unwind. Sometimes Carol allowed me to vent so we could put it away. You’re defending your home atmosphere.

Boundary 6: Energy. This is the physical one. Your family deserves more than your leftovers. If church gets your highest level of vitality, but you’re depleted and exhausted at home, your loyalties are out of balance. Set boundaries that allow your full engagement with family activities. You’re protecting family memories… and your own health!

Boundary 7: Stewardship. This is the financial one. Periodically ask, “Is our level of giving motivated purely by gratitude and the joy of sacrifice for God’s kingdom work?” You’re protecting your family’s contentment.

God bless your boundaries!

Thanks for reading.