Preach Better with a Few Relational Boundaries
Each week, the most important time for all of us who preach or teach for a living is our preparation time.
If you don’t hear from God in the study, you’re not likely to be used by God in the pulpit.
Satan knows this, so if he has anything to say about it, that’s the time he’s going to most want to disrupt. By lack of sleep. Or spiritual complacency.
Or relational tension.
I wish I had been given these four relational suggestions 25 years ago. They all fall in line with the spirit of Romans 12, starting at verse 10:
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer….16 Live in harmony with one another. – Romans 12:10-12, 16
Here are 4 relational boundaries that lead to healthier relationships and better preaching.
1. Ask your spouse for a “No-Fight Friday” policy.
That is, if you do your teaching prep on Friday. If it’s Thursday, make it a “This isn’t a good time Thursday” rule. If it’s Wednesday, you could call it your “We’re Working Together Wednesday.”
You get the point.
All of us get irritated with the people we love the most and live with the most. (Or at least all of you do; my wife is perfect so it never happens to me.) And all our spouses get irritated with us. In listening to pastors’ wives what I’ve found is they find themselves less able to bite their tongues on the day their husbands are writing their sermons.
That doesn’t mean that you’ll never have a fight on Friday. Crises happen. But if we can move 90% of our fights to less important days, the work of the church will go better.
“No Fight Friday” means, “If I have an issue, or you have an issue, we’ll try to resolve that issue at a time other than when I’m about to sit down and write my message.”
I probably don’t need to point out that you need to discuss this with your spouse at a time when you’re not fighting.
If message preparation is your most important time, post-message delivery is your most drained and most vulnerable time. So, if at all possible, establish a “No Criticism Sunday” policy.
2. Ask your congregation for a “No Criticism Sunday” policy.
Congregation members are generally polite enough that if they have a criticism for you, they know it’s best to give it in person. But when are they most likely to see you? Sunday. Just before or right after you preach.
Just before you preach you need to be “in the Spirit”. Pastors tend to be people-pleasers and nothing is more unsettling to a preacher than hearing a criticism just before you step on the stage.
Then, after you preach you are at your most fragile.
Imagine how hurtful it would be for an artist immediately after he sang his new song to be told that the song sucked. It would hurt any time, but the time it would hurt the most is right after he sang it.
Our sermons are our compositions. We’re most damaged by criticism immediately after delivery. So tell your church members, “You can criticize me if you must, just wait until Tuesday.”
The same policy should be in place for your worship leader.
People are emotional, so they want to sound off while they’re mad. But mature people know that their criticism is only godly if its purpose is to help the person they’re correcting. And mature people have enough maturity to be able to wait. So ask them to wait until Tuesday.
A corollary to this policy addresses anonymous notes.
3. Tell your congregation about your “No Anonymous Notes” policy.
Matthew 18:15 says that if you catch a brother in sin, you are to go to him in private. Just between the two of you. An anonymous note is not between the two of you. It’s not edifying. It’s attacking.
And you are unwise to leave yourself open to attack.
Establish a procedure where every anonymous letter is thrown away before it’s read. And every anonymous comment on a Connection Card is tossed before it’s ever seen by the pastor or person for whom it’s intended. To let anonymous notes float is to foster a dysfunctional family.
Let your congregation know that you will read everything that’s signed, and nothing that isn’t. Have a mature member screen all cards and comments before they get to you or anyone they might hurt.
Lastly, you and your wife are most susceptible to spiritual attack Sunday afternoon and Monday.
4. Establish a “Give Grace on Sunday and Monday” policy with your spouse.
More resignation letters are written on Mondays than any other days. And more pastoral couple fights happen for petty reasons on Sunday afternoon and Monday mornings than at any other time because this is the time when you’re both least-strong and least-guarded.
So, establish a grace policy: If one of us is tempted to be snippy, critical, or hurtful, give grace until we both have the strength to deal with whatever is bothering us.
Ephesians 4 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” The key to this is just don’t get angry. Power down and give grace on those days.
- Do you think any of these relational boundaries would help your marriage and your preaching?
- If so, what’s your next step?
Blessings on you, your marriage, and your preaching!
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