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Saying No to Say Yes


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Table of Contents

Introduction Chapter 1: The Problem with Boundaries Chapter 2: Healthy Selves and Boundaries Chapter 3: Setting Boundaries in Anxious Congregational Systems Chapter 4: When the Self and System Collide Chapter 5: Saying No to Say Yes Appendices: 1. Boundary Awareness Training 2. Tips for Organizing a Clergy Group

About the Author

David C. Olsen is executive director of the Samaritan Counseling Center of the Capital Region and an adjunct faculty member of the Sage Graduate School. Nancy G. Devor is senior staff psychologist at the Danielsen Institute at Boston University.


Clergy sexual misconduct gets the most attention when boundary violations are discussed. Olsen and Devor believe that focus gets in the way of addressing the need for other kinds of boundaries that help ministry to flourish. They argue that boundary problems mostly arise when there is confluence between unresolved personal issues on the part of a pastor and high stress in the congregational system itself. Boundary maintenance is needed not only so that pastors don't burn out, but so that congregations can thrive. Pastors may set boundaries that are too rigid, which tends to drive people away. Olsen and Devor recommend the formation of clergy groups in which people hold each other accountable to boundary awareness and maintenance. The Christian Century [T]his outstanding resource explores appropriate boundaries in ministry, boundaries that 'promote and contribute to health...and excellence in ministry,' that is, the health and well-being of both the minister and his family as well as that of the community. The authors contend that 'successful boundaries are a team effort,' involving both the clergy and the community of faith. This book is an important read for priests, presvyteres and leaders in our parishes. Clergy Couple Care Drawing upon wisdom gained through years of individual and group work with clergy, the authors make plain complex psychological theories about why religious leaders want to please congregations, and why congregational systems become anxious. With riveting illustrations they explore the deadly interaction between clergy seeking affirmation and congregations consumed with anxiety. Saying No to Say Yes provides a much needed road map for clergy whose family history makes them want to please congregations made anxious by financial pressures. -- Carrie Doehring PhD, Associate Professor, Iliff School of Theology The authors' wide experience working with pastors and congregations, informed by their rich psychological knowledge, infuses their vision of pastoral excellence that is grounded in thoughtful self-awareness, strong support systems, and wise choices. The wisest choices, they say, are those that allow pastors to maintain healthy boundaries with their churches, their ministries, and their own histories. This is essential reading for pastors who aspire to healthy lives of effective service. -- Rev. Paul E. Hopkins PhD, author of Pursuing Pastoral Excellence Devor and Olsen tackle head-on the complex and murky reality of boundaries in the life of the church and invite us to notice the "zones" where we need to tread cautiously. Rather than focus on the drama of sexual misconduct, they clarify how the setting of good boundaries is vital to both clergy and the church. Saying No to Say Yes invites us to deepen our day-to-day practice of setting individual and collective boundaries in a way that is clear, accessible, and life-giving. -- Kelli Walker-Jones, Center Director, Triangle Pastoral Counseling

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