A boundary stone or marker is a “robust physical marker that identifies the start of a land boundary or the change in a boundary” according to wikipedia. In Psalm 22:28, the psalmist says this, “Don’t cheat your neighbor by moving the ancient boundary markers set up by previous generations.” Boundary stones, markers, boundaries are not only direction giving, but create unity, safety and clarity. There are countless commentaries on “boundary stones” related to our spiritual journey and maturity, I think there is also a solid delineation within this idea for leadership and organizational strategy.
Josiah Ober describes boundary markers as, “a way of imposing human, cultural, social meanings upon a once-undifferentiated natural environment.” If this is true, then there are several reasons why as leaders, we must adopt and passionately guard a strategy for our organizations. Here are five thoughts to consider:
1. Strategy (organizational boundary stones) define the “what”. Without clearly defined direction and how we will get there, we run the risk of saying “yes” to every suggestion or opportunity. This just turns ministries and organizations into buffet lines; too many choices that lead to multiple directions and ultimately, silos and mis-alignment and bloating (which is never attractive). A clear strategy (simply, a plan or steps) gives concise direction and allows leaders to have quick “yeses” and gracious “no’s”. What are your steps or strategy (boundary stones) that you’ve put in place to ensure that your organization is heading in the right direction? For instance, in a church organization it might be, attending worship weekly, connecting in groups outside the church, serving the church and engaging your world. In family ministry, it might be connecting every kid/student to a consistent leader in a small group, parenting with parents, etc… By defining boundary markers (strategy) for your organization or ministry you define steps, or the what.
2. Boundary stones give us concise clarity. Will Mancini says in his book Church Unique, “If you have a map, the effectiveness of your mission will go through the roof.” Mark the boundaries, make the map so people know the way and you’re effectiveness to see your mission as a reality.
3. Boundary stones protect our unique gift(s). God is incredibly creative and has created each of us with unique gifts and talents. When those unique gifts are collected together, it creates unique organizations. Churches have unique gifts that they bring to the community and again, to quote Will Mancini, “local churches are unmistakably unique and incomparably different.” Not just in style and denomination, but in the gift they bring to the community and the people. Your boundary stones of strategy will help you protect that unique gift without compromising who you are. As a leader you have certain strengths and you are most effective when you lead out of those strengths. As an organization you also have strengths… do that! If you are gifted with the unique gifts of social justice, do that. Maybe it’s family, the heartbeat of your church is to build strong families and marriages that are built to last or maybe it’s developing leaders to lead the church of the future. Whatever it is, DO THAT! Guard your boundary stones to do what you are uniquely and creatively gifted and positioned to do.
4. Boundary stones keep our mission missional. In order for your mission to be effective in it’s purpose and be missional in nature, all ministries must align vertically with the mission and horizontally with each other. Your boundary stone of strategy will not only allow for alignment in both directions, but will act as a guardrail when you’re tempted to veer outside of the boundary stones. This allows you to have healthy conversation without the need to defend or dispute, the boundaries are pre-set.
5. As a leader it is your job to maintain the boundary stone. Ride the fence. I don’t mean “be on the fence”, but watch the boundary stones. It’s our job as leaders to guard and maintain the strategy, to watch for places in the “fence” that might be broken-down and need of mending. I heard the question asked this week about the role of the CEO… what is the role of the leader? To cast the vision, protect the boundary stones and re-direct when necessary for the sake of the mission. Don’t leave this to anyone else, this is your job as a leader, if you give this away, you give away the boundary stone and precious land will be lost.
There is a danger of ignoring our boundary stones. God had strong words to say to the tribes of Judah and Israel in Hosea 5:10, “Judah’s leaders are like those who move boundary stones. I will pour out my wrath on them like a flood of water.”… harsh words. We live under a new covenant now, but Jesus warned us to be faithful stewards throughout the gospels (Matt 21:33-41, Mark 12:1-9).
I’d love to hear from you! Let’s talk about your boundary stones or discover together what they are.
Resources: Will Mancini Church Unique find it on Amazon