Do you feel like you are working too hard? It’s a busy time of year for clergy and other church leaders with the start of the program year, stewardship and budgeting, and the Advent/Christmas season. It’s easy to feel like you are hanging on by your fingernails.
The notion of overfunctioning from family systems theory can help clergy think through their responsibilities. We overfunction when we take emotional responsibility for things that don’t belong to us: the course of someone else’s life, for example (including our own children). This will wear us down over time, and rarely produces the results we would like, at least in the long term. When we overfunction in relation to others and consistently take responsibility for them, we step over a boundary.
Overfunctioning takes place in reciprocal relationship with underfunctioning. It always takes two: one to be too responsible and one to be not responsible enough. Usually those who are too responsible blame those who are not responsible enough: “If they would only step up to the plate, everything would be different.” Many clergy are overfunctioners, at least to some degree. We learn this in the families we grew up in, whether it is related to birth order, irresponsible parents, or overresponsible parents who taught us the same lesson they learned.
Now, being busy and working hard are not necessarily overfunctioning. When your ministry is important to you, it makes sense for you to work hard. But when you feel like you are carrying others on your shoulders, chances are you’re taking more responsibility than you need to.
Where do you need to step back?