MC USA strongly encouraged Conference Ministers and congregational leaders to attend these trainings to support strengthening our lives as Jesus’ followers. These trainings were facilitated by “Faith Trust”, based out of Seattle WA. Additionally, MSMC supported Charlene Epp, as MSMC CMT, to attend as a way for our conference to create and nurture healthy ministers and congregations in our own region. In turn, MSMC is requiring all those credentialed in MSMC to attend Healthy Boundaries 101 with a refresher course every three years. MSMC also strongly encourages any congregational leaders (church chair, elders, teachers, etc.) to attend future trainings. The next is Friday, November 9, at Beth-El Mennonite Church. This calendar year MSMC is offering these trainings free as a measure of encouragement for congregations to utilize the various ways leaders, members and pastors can embrace healthy relationships. Below are reflections from Healthy Boundary Trainings in May, experienced by some of our own MSMC members.
The secret is out: churches aren’t always safe spaces. Anyone who has not been living in a cave is aware that the church has not always cared for its own in ways that protect them from harm by leaders and clergy. Sexual violence and manipulation, embezzling, bullying, unwanted touch, inappropriate use of the internet and social media, and other abuses of power from church leaders are being brought into the light. The Mennonite church is not immune to these injustices, and MCUSA and MSMC are taking action by offering training and resources to help change the culture of power abuses and secrecy by church leaders.
I attended the Training at Albuquerque Mennonite Church. These sessions accomplished three things. One, they increase my awareness of the need for healthy, appropriate boundaries between pastors/leaders and church members, and between teachers and students. Second, stories, illustrations and conversation were shared about the effect of appropriate vs. inappropriate relationship boundaries in promoting effective, healthy ministry. Lastly, attention was given to healthy ways that leaders/pastors may develop appropriate boundaries and practice good self-care.
We all seek in our faith communities to find a space of safety that allows us to grow more deeply into mature, whole persons. This training was a clear reminder for me as a pastor that I relate to congregants from a place of power and privilege, and that privilege carries with it the potential to misuse and abuse that power, making church not a safe space to grow. When teachers, leaders and pastors use their power wisely and behave in ways that promote safe and healthy relationships, it empowers our students and church members in healthy ways. Appropriate, professional boundaries provide for that safe connection based on the need of the student or church member. It builds and manifests the kingdom of God among us!
As one who stayed an extra day to train to become a trainer, I am eager to take what I have learned and create training sessions for Christian Education teachers/leaders, Deacons and others who hold positions of power in the life of our congregation. I hope each congregation in MSMC will participate in this much-needed, long-overdue experience of training for healthy boundaries!
Randy Spaulding, Pastor
Boulder Mennonite Church
As I travelled to Pueblo for the next process in my credentialing and for a training I was looking forward to, I reflected on the reasons why these trainings in maintaining healthy boundaries for those individuals in ministry are necessary. As a Mennonite, my personal view of peacemaking is more than just my stance on issues of war and conflict, but peacemaking is also about our ability to be what an individual may need for us to be an any given moment in a pastoral counseling or advising scenario.
I serve as the Chaplain for Colorado College and the Associate Dean of Students, and my walk with the Mennonites began 34 years ago in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The thing that impressed me the most about my Mennonite sisters and brothers is that their following of peace is reflected in their words, actions, and interactions with others on a daily basis. I consider the responsibilities of ministry to be ones that need to embody these qualities, with an emphasis that it is always about the other person and any violation of trust and boundaries with someone coming to us for assistance is a grave offense of not only the role itself, but an offense against our role as followers of Christ.
I recommend this training for a number of reasons. The main ones are that we need to be reminded that we are human and that we have our fallacies. However, if one assumes the role of a chaplain or minister, one needs to be able to maintain control of our needs and the situations we are in, so we can serve as shepherds to our flocks. We also need to be in constant reflection and engaged in versatility in order maintain boundaries which take into consideration the needs of everyone we serve. The training in Pueblo did a very good analysis of these types of issues and I found it very helpful to engage in conversations with fellow ministers on these topics since there are multiple ways to solve problems, and many issues need to be looked at in a case by case basis. If one is called into ministry, one needs to be able to master the ability to guide others and using these healthy boundaries in connection with sound judgment.
Mountain Community Mennonite Church
I recently attended the Healthy Boundary 101 – Fundamentals training as a congregant, not as a pastor. This training was personally helpful, and I believe critically important for congregants who are members of the Pastoral Congregational Relationship Committee (PCRC). PCRC supports, guides and, if necessary, holds the pastor accountable for developing and maintaining healthy relationships. While there are no grey areas in physical/sexual encounters in a pastor-congregant relationship, there are grey areas in many other pastoral relationship encounters. These include accepting and giving gifts or favors, forming deep friendships, providing pastoral care, counseling and dating/romantic relationships. Each has the potential of being or leading to an unhealthy pastor-congregant relationship. As a PCRC member, understanding healthy boundaries in these areas increases the ability to support the pastor and the overall well-being of the congregation.
Betty Jantzen, Member
Boulder Mennonite Church