Saying No to Say Yes

Everyday Boundaries and Pastoral Excellence

by Olsen, David C., Ph.D,

This book explores the difficulties clergy face when they attempt to say “no” by setting effective boundaries in order to say “yes” to the life-giving call of ministry. It illustrates the benefits of good boundaries, even as it traces the legacy of denominational boundary trainings in the wake of the public clergy sexual misconduct crisis. Devor and Olsen supplement anecdotes from their experience leading boundary trainings with an examination of clergy/congregation dynamics through the lenses of both self-psychology and family systems theory—elucidating how some obstacles to effective boundary setting are caused by innate personality tendencies that are exacerbated by a stressful church environment. A perfect storm occurs when clergy vulnerabilities and systemic congregational anxiety interact, leading to burn-out and boundary problems which hinder pastoral excellence.

Readers will find both practice questions to assist them in a deeper assessment of personal and systemic obstacles as well as strategies for setting boundaries, creating the space needed to pursue excellence in ministry.
  • Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; March 2015
  • ISBN: 9781566997294
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure EPUB format
  • Title: Saying No to Say Yes
  • Author: Olsen, David C., Ph.D; Devor, Nancy G.,
  • Imprint: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

In The Press

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.

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.