In my new role as Regional Minister for the Christian Church in the Southwest, I have some responsibility for the standing of our clergy. Here’s a blog post I wrote for our website. It’s primarily for ministers, but I’d welcome others’ thoughts also.
For many years my wife taught in the same elementary school where at least one of my children attended. Often, I had reasons to go into the school as a parent or as a spouse. The protocol for visiting the school was the same each time. I’d go in, show my license to the clerk working there, register my reason for being in the school, and pick up a visitor sticker. I was to wear the sticker while in the building. Sometimes, this process took more time than the actual visit would. Still, I did it every time.
Occasionally, the receptionist or attendance clerk would apologize to me for the bureaucracy. Surely there should have been some “frequent visitor” pass I received, but I saw the process differently. To me, the process sent a signal of respect to the educational staff at their school. I respected their efforts to keep children safe and cooperated with their protocols. It also sent a signal to the children themselves. One of the ways they learn to tell the difference between the people they can trust and the people they can’t trust is by watching whether people follow the rules they’re supposed to follow. That doesn’t mean that everyone who side-stepped the protocols was up to no good. And it doesn’t mean that everyone who abided by the protocols was always trustworthy, but it was an important sign.
I view Boundaries Training in the same light. Every five years, commissioned and ordained clergy are required to go through the Healthy Boundaries training. Taking this training sends some important signals.
- It sends a signal to our colleagues. Our attention to boundaries training sends the signal that we take our professional accountability seriously. It says that we abide by the rules established by the region and we expect others who bear the title “Minister” to do the same.
- It sends a signal to our congregations. It tells our congregation that we understand that ministers connect with people in difficult and vulnerable moments and we intend to preserve the trust that has been given to us.
- It sends a signal to our culture. We know that many ministers have over-stepped the boundaries and have acted inappropriately. We do not intend to ignore the abuse that people have endured and we will take the steps to be transparent and accountable.
If you have yet to take Healthy Boundaries training or you’re about to reach the five year mark since you last completed it, I encourage you to participate in one of the upcoming trainings. Here’s a list of the ones that have been scheduled. We will have more scheduled in the coming months.
- December 2 (Saturday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm) – Healthy Boundaries Training at Riverside Disciples Ministry Center in Fort Worth – register online or call Regional office at 817-926-4687
- January 20 (Saturday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm) – Healthy Boundaries Training at First Christian Church in Carrollton – online registration or call Regional office at 817-926-4687
- February 5 (Monday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm) – Healthy Boundaries Training at University Christian Church in Fort Worth – online registration or call Regional office at 817-926-4687