*This post is dedicated to leaders in any ministry that are operating out of a volunteer, part time position with limited training.
My Story: I had a special relationship with a teenager while I was in college. She was witty, creative, and intelligent. She threw some half truths in her stories that kept me wondering what was real and unreal. I’d write letters every Tuesday morning, after our weekly hang outs. She would write back and in those letters she would open up. I did not know what to do with the depth of the hurts she was telling me about. I finally used some of the info we were learning in social work school to create a boundary in our friendship. I told her I’d have to share information with her mother if she told me she was thinking about suicide or hurting herself. Here I was, a social work student, scared to death to set that boundary with someone I loved and wanted to to trust me. So I can only imagine that other peeps in ministry may struggle setting boundaries, too. Here’s three tips to keep and share.
- Set Boundaries Early. When you feel like it is too much, it probably is. There are boundaries to confidentiality that have to be set when things begin to feel sticky and then respected in order to love well. If your kid is talking about wanting to hurt themselves, having experienced hurt themselves or hurting someone else, their parent needs to be made aware and an abuse report may need to be made.
- Ask for Help. Teamwork makes the dream work. If you do not feel comfortable going forward alone, reach out to a helping professional (like me!) to walk you through it. Safety is our first priority. Your emotional health is tied with safety. We need you emotionally healthy so you can love these kids to Christ as you go!
- Spread the Word. When you notice your kids are playing therapist, educate them on tip #1.
If you have worked in ministry long enough you WILL have to use these tips. It does not mean you are incapable. It means you are being thorough and effective and showing your kiddos that you value their life (maybe more than they do).