Boundaries – When to Help

Proper boundaries in the context of a small group permit the leader to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually available equally to all group members. But when do you help your small group member and when do you refer them?

Consider some of the following situations; what would you do? A small group member calls you 4-5 times per week for advice. A member of your small group loses his or her job and asks if they can borrow money from you or the group. A small group member becomes disruptive or monopolizes the conversation in almost every weekly meeting.

If you lead a group long enough, you’ll eventually run into circumstances like this, and being prepared will help you to tactfully respond with grace and wisdom. Every situation is different but, generally speaking, consider these 3 guidelines:

1. Know yourself. All of us have different backgrounds and training, and you need to be aware of what is in your range of experience and abilities when leading others who are in need.
2. Discern the issue. Pray for guidance as you help someone. If you are comfortable in the situation, continue to help. If it is too much to handle, please refer.
3. Know who to refer. Inform your coach or staff contact if there is any issue that is overwhelming for you. Your coach and the staff are here to help in situations like that!

Boundaries – Misperceptions

Sometimes, a small group leader refuses to set proper boundaries because it feels wrong. Consider the two most common misperceptions about boundaries:

Misperception #1: Setting boundaries is selfish.
Misperception #2: Setting boundaries hurts people.

Let’s begin by addressing the first misperception. Far from being selfish, setting boundaries is simply good stewardship of the relationships to which God entrusts to each person. This does not mean you’re neglectful or unloving, but without saying “No” at certain times, you will burn out.

The second misperception is a natural way of thinking, but we need to train ourselves to realize that most people are respectful of the leader’s time and commitments. The group just needs to know! Rather than hurting people, a leader who sets boundaries actually makes him or herself available in a healthy way. Proper boundaries create space where relationships – all relationships – can flourish.

Remember, we do not expect you to be equipped to deal with every potential problem raised within the group, such as drug addiction, major depression, domestic violence, etc. If an issue is above your ability or experience, please let us know immediately so we can help.

Boundaries (Overview)

Over the next two months we will be discussing boundaries with small group ministry. Have you ever felt drained by the demands of the relationships in your small group? If so, you probably need to review proper boundaries in ministry.

What do we mean by boundaries? A boundary is a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual marker that distinguishes one person from another. In a setting where broken people engage in authentic and honest community, a small group leader’s understanding of boundaries is essential. Without proper boundaries a small group leader may lose him or herself in the context of relationships, may begin to feel overly responsible for others, and may become resentful for the time and energy that these relationships consume.

Even Jesus had boundaries and knew when he needed to get away and “recharge” with God. Matthew 14 describes how Jesus, after feeding the crowd of thousands, withdrew to the mountain with God. He could have preached more sermons; he could have healed more people; rather, Jesus pulled away from the crowd.

Jesus had boundaries, and we need them, too. It might not be leaving a crowd on a mountainside, but to be effective leaders, we must implement boundaries. Next time we will answer why leaders fear having boundaries and how it negatively impacts their ministry.