Healthy Boundaries: Women and Men Working Together in Ministry

By Docas Lehman & Joanne Dietzel

Within our conference, women and men often work together in ministry teams of all types. Thanks be to God!  How is that going?  Are we keeping the healthy in healthy boundaries?  Can we name the nature of relationships and the work habits that keep integrity in our mutual ministry? Do we make space to reflect upon areas for growth?

Healthy boundaries are both the work of people and gifts of God’s Spirit. The task of naming and tending boundaries is never once and done, but is ongoing and dynamic. Every leadership or pastoral team, whether in congregations, committees, and nonprofits, needs to build in reflective pauses for this work that is practical, spiritual, and hopeful.

Whole courses, books, and websites are devoted to training that can take you deeper. But here is one simple tool you could use to start a conversation in your committee or leadership group. You might take this to your board room, for example, or to your pastoral team, pastor-congregation committee, or Sunday school class.

Take a look. Circle questions you want to talk about. Write down your own questions.  And if you’d like to talk with someone in conference circles, don’t hesitate to contact Joanne Dietzel at


  1. How and when do you discuss healthy boundaries?
  2. Is your congregation or workplace a setting that most people would describe as a good place, with good spirit, where there is good communication, and boundaries are honored? If yes, how is that true? If not, where could you start to change that?
  3. How do leaders use job descriptions and role definitions to establish boundaries? Is there more that could be done in this area?
  4. Within mixed-gender teams, are members aware of the different gifts that women and men can bring, as well as the “traps” that women or men can fall into?  Is there a particular question that is current for you?
  5. In some circles these days, people are asking, how much interaction can men and women have in the workplace without crossing lines? Does this question resonate in your setting? If so, how might you create space for that conversation? If that conversation doesn’t seem necessary, can you identify ways you have created the healthy culture that you want and value?
  6. In a leadership or pastoral team, there usually will be power differentials, often for good reasons. How well does your team use power constructively? How do team members share power, while staying true to the different roles and responsibilities of each one?
  7. In pastoral or other leadership roles, how are you devoting time and energy to strengthening your own intimate relationships? How do you honor those relationships in others’ lives? 
  8. The pastoral role is unique in some ways. Ministers are expected to build relationships where intimacy and trust can grow. If you are a pastor, do you recognize your own risk areas? And, if you are in a leadership role, if you see behavior that risks violating physical, emotional, or work intimacy boundaries, what would you do?
  9. As pastors, do you have peers with whom you meet regularly and who hold you accountable? Who is in that circle of accountability?
  10. Is everyone in your congregation aware of Atlantic Coast Conference’s Policy & Procedures for responding to ministerial misconduct?  How might you provide that reporting information in a way that increases awareness and adds another layer of safety to your congregational culture?
  11. Is there a question about boundaries that needs to be asked that has not yet been named?

If you want to dig deeper into the topic of mixed-gender teams, consider studying Becoming Colleagues: Women and Men Serving Together in Faith by Carol E. Becker (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco 2000). Through research, Becker identified nine behaviors of effective mixed-gender teams. In the concluding chapter, she offers questions for personal reflection and team discussion.