Boundaries Training: What would you do?

5 second thought experiment – what would you do?

  • You are invited out to dinner at a restaurant by a parishioner and they reach across the table to pick up the check, insisting, “This one’s on me!” It’s the third time they’ve done this in the past two months.
  • You want to buy a house and a parishioner approaches you after Sunday service, “Pastor, I’d like to give you the down payment and provide an interest free loan to cover the rest.”
  • You and your spouse become very close to another couple in the church and they invite you over to their house. As the evening unwinds, they suggest that you all go skinny dipping in the hot tub. You and your spouse make eye contact across the water, and the steam begins to rise.

We can hear you laughing as you read these scenarios, perhaps even thinking, “These would never happen to me!” The truth is each one happened to one or more pastors with whom we’ve met at LeaderWise over the years. Yes, even the hot tub story – or a variation thereof involving steam rooms, saunas, lakes, swimming pools, and the like. Several acted on impulse – saying yes in the moment – and later coming to regret it as stories spread or photos emerged.

Welcome to LeaderWise’s Not Your Usual Boundaries Training!

Our experience at LeaderWise is that pastors, church staff, and other leaders who transgress boundaries by-and-large are not predators. In fact, not even close. Most people in ministry who violate boundaries are individuals who know and follow the rules most of the time, but whose judgment may be impaired due to an unusually stressful time in their lives. With that in mind, we tailor our boundaries training to focus on strategies to foster mental health, emotional resiliency, and well-being. While we still cover the essentials, “Don’t sleep with a parishioner unless you’re married to them” and “Don’t borrow money from the church board president,” we believe the best prevention is to encourage clergy to take steps to manage their stress in order to maintain balance and perspective when temptation arises. We further teach a 3-step strategy to help stop them in their tracks before they commit a boundary violation.

And, here’s the final question. Does boundaries training need to be boring? Absolutely not! Our 5-hour program is lively and highly interactive, full of lots of reflection and conversation – and even laughter. Attendees have given us the feedback our boundaries training was a great experience, AND caused them to re-evaluate some of their own practices.

Join us! The Synod of the Covenant is sponsoring 3 boundaries trainings over the course of this year. Each training will be 5 hours online via zoom, 2.5 hours each day for 2 consecutive days. Sign up for whichever one fits best into your schedule. (5 CEUs will be granted upon completion of the program.)

  • May 18 and 19, 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM Eastern each day (Registration Deadline 5/5/21)
  • August 18 and 19, 6:00 – 8:30 PM Eastern each day (Registration Deadline 8/5/21)
  • November 9 and 10, 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM Eastern each day (Registration Deadline 10/27/21)

To register for this workshop, or others offered through LeaderWise in 2021, visit Leaderwise Registration – Synod of the Covenant.  You’ll receive the zoom information after you register.

There is no cost for these trainings.  Your presbytery and synod are investing in your leadership by providing these workshops for free.

Questions about whether you are required to participate in this training?  Contact your presbytery’s Stated Clerk.

Questions about the training content?  Contact Synod Interim Executive Chip Hardwick at

Questions about registration or technology?  Contact Synod Office Manager Heather Johnston Deeb at

From the Interim Executive….

From the Interim Executive,

Our entry into Holy Week reminds us that Jesus made an active choice to go to the cross. He was neither painted into a corner nor the unwitting victim of political machinations. John’s Gospel tells us that “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world….Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Jesus chose to be sacrificed on the cross, for us and for our benefit.

Over the past two weeks we have seen fellow Americans sacrificed, not of their own choice, and for no one’s benefit. Eight were killed in the Atlanta area in massage parlors, and then ten more were slaughtered at a grocery store in Boulder. Every life lost and person injured is tragic.

Six of the eight victims in Atlanta were Asian American females. The massacre brought to light the increasing violence against their racial-ethnic community—violence that has a long history but which has skyrocketed over the last year.

I have been learning a lot about this violence in the last week, and I wanted to share with you some resources which might be helpful to you or your congregation.  Two Presbyterian pastor friends of mine (Laura Cheifetz and Mihee Kim-Kort) have written excellent and poignant articles for CNN (Opinion: Asian Americans are treated as perpetual foreigners. That has to change – CNN) and for the New York Times (Opinion | The Atlanta Shootings and a Religious Toxicity – The New York Times (

The congregation where the Synod office is housed, Kirk in the Hills in Bloomfield Hills, MI, is hosting an adult education series taught by Asian scholars William Yoo of Columbia Seminary and Soong-Chan Rah from North Park Seminary.  It runs on Zoom each Sunday from April 18-May 23 at 12:15.  You can learn more and register at Spring Series 2021 – Formstack.

Finally, I have shared a prayer at the presbytery meetings where I have spoken since that tragedy; you can find it at A Prayer for the US Asian Community – Synod of the Covenant.

When we feel overwhelmed by tragedies like both recent shootings, we can be grateful that Jesus not only willingly sacrificed himself for the good of humanity, but he also rose from the dead—and with the same dynamic energy that brought Jesus back to life, the Holy Spirit empowers us and our work to address violence and all the other needs of the world. Thanks be to God!

Your partner in ministry,

Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD
Interim Executive

Holy Week and Easter 2 Worship Services Available

The Synod has worked with presbyteries to provide virtual worship services throughout Lent, and the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Sunday after Easter services are particularly timely.  You can use these worship services to give those in your church who provide worship a Sunday off, or for worship planning ideas, or for your own personal devotion and worship.  Click here for the videos and more information.

Holy Week Devotional Resources for You

As we enter into Holy Week, the busyness for church leaders sometimes means that it is difficult to connect with all that Jesus has done for us.  We are so busy worrying about services and technology and covid precautions that we can easily be distracted.  Perhaps these two devotional resources will help you to experience the power of Holy Week in a new way.

The first is an online Stations of the Cross coordinated by Rev. Ed Goode of the Presbytery of Cincinnati. The beauty of the photography, coupled with poignant and meaningful writings, provides a tremendous way to focus on Christ’s journey to Calvary.  You can participate here:   The Stations of the Cross (

The second is a thought-provoking and inspiring poem by Becky Lindsay, also from the presbytery of Cincinnati.  First published on the Presbyterians Today website in 2017, “Out of Chaos” still rings true today.  You can find it, accompanied by a portion of the Passion façade from the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, here.

May God bless you this Holy Week, and send out into the world to bless others.

Explore these Opportunities to Train and Strengthen Preachers

One of the congregational vitality goals within the Matthew 25 initiative is Spirit-inspired worship. In the Reformed tradition, the central aspect of worship is the preaching of the Word as it points to the scriptures, which point to Jesus Christ. To this end, the Synod is offering several opportunities to train and strengthen preachers.

For Frequent Preachers

If you are a regular preacher and would like to strengthen aspects of your preaching, you might find helpful a series of monthly zoom workshops. Coordinated by Synod Interim Executive Chip Hardwick (Ph.D., Homiletics/Preaching, Princeton Theological Seminary), this series of one-off workshops will include preaching scholars from across the country.  Each zoom will be held the first Wednesday of the month from 10:00 to 11:30 am.  Sessions will be recorded for those who cannot attend live.

This schedule will be updated as it becomes more finalized.

October 6: Exploring the Themes of Advent 2021, Chip Hardwick, Synod Interim Executive

November 3: “The Peoples’ Sermon: Preaching as a Ministry of the Whole Congregation,” Shauna Hannan, Homiletics Professor at Lutheran Pacific Theological Seminary

December 1: “From/To: Preaching that Accords with Covenant and Commission,” Tim Slemmons, Homiletics Professor at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary

Past Offerings

September 1: “What Poets Can Teach Preachers About Surviving, Thriving, and Talking About What We Do,” Anna Carter Florence, Homiletics Professor at Columbia Theological Seminary

August 4: “Opening Your Listeners to New Perspectives,” Chip Hardwick, Synod Interim Executive

July 7: “Preaching Justice and Hope in Turbulent Times,” Kenyatta Gilbert, Homiletics Professor at Howard University School of Divinity

June 2: “Preaching about Racial Justice without Losing your Conviction or your Job,” Chip Hardwick, Synod Interim Executive

Preaching & Teaching: Lifelong Learning: Alma College

If you would like to be on a supply preaching list, Alma College, in Lake Huron Presbytery, is offering a short course called ‘Preaching and Teaching:  The art and science of inspiring hearts and minds through spoken words.’  It is designed to help prepare you more thoroughly than the Maumee Valley Presbytery offering. Taught by Denise Anderson, former co-moderator of the PC(USA), Andrew Pomerville, chaplain of Alma College, and Chip Hardwick. Sessions will be held four successive Thursday evenings by Zoom beginning July 8, 2021. For more information or to register, visit Preaching & Teaching: Lifelong Learning: Alma College. Questions? Please contact Andrew Pomerville at

Me? A Preacher?:  A Preaching Workshop

If you have been wondering about what it might be like to preach in your home church, a two-day workshop coordinated by Maumee Valley Presbytery will be very helpful for you!  “Me? A Preacher?:  A Preaching Workshop” will be held on Saturday May 8 and 22, 9:30 am -12:30 pm via Zoom. Rev. Jeanne Gray, pastor of Collingwood Presbyterian Church, and Synod Interim Executive Chip Hardwick, will be the leaders.  Learn more here:  Me? A Preacher?: A Preaching Workshop (

From the Interim Executive….

From the Interim Executive,

I’m writing this on February 18th, the day after Ash Wednesday.  I missed the chance to worship in person, but I’m very grateful for the service organized by Cincinnati Presbytery.  It helped me reflect on our mortality and sinfulness, and to prepare for Lent.

As I prayed and considered what to give up, or what to take on, for Lent, my thoughts went to the Matthew 25 initiative, of which the Synod, many presbyteries, and even more churches are a part. It encourages us together and as individuals to focus on developing congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism, and eradicating systemic poverty.

Thinking through the ways that I might work toward these goals, I landed on my Lenten practice.  Every day I hope to write a handwritten note to someone who may feel lonely.  In this way I’ll live into the caring relationships which is a mark of Vital Congregations.  (If you have suggestions of people to whom I might write, send me an email to the address below, with a bit of information about the recipient and their address.)

It’s not too late to come up with a Lenten practice.  How might the Matthew 25 initiative shape your Lent?  Remember Lenten practices are not an end unto themselves; they are a means by which the Holy Spirit equips us to join Christ’s mission to the world.

Your partner in ministry,

Rev. Charles B Hardwick, PhD
Interim Executive

Muskingum Valley Moderator Rick Hastings Offers Hope

Do you need a word of affirmation as we continue to navigate through the pandemic? Moderator of the Muskingum Valley Presbytery, Rev. Rick Hastings, may have just what you need. In this uplifting video that you can watch here or below. Rick talk about a book that speaks to him during this time by C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy, and brings out new meaning about what it means to lead, and live with joy during a time that feels like we have little. He reminds us that if we place Christ at the center of our lives we can still bring joy to our communities during this time by proclaiming Jesus.

LeaderWise Workshops To Be Offered throughout the Synod

In 2021, the Synod has purchased a range of services from LeaderWise, a Christian organization helping with leadership development in churches and ministries. The Synod will offer multiple sessions of boundaries training in 2021 designed to fulfill any presbytery’s requirements, as well as other workshops designed to equip you as a leader in your presbytery, church, or other place of ministry.  Watch this space for more details!

“I’m Not Ready Yet” Town Hall

Join Thrivent and Synod partner Samaritas for an important virtual town hall meeting on February 24th that talks about the difficulties of moving into a senior living community. Here is the description of the town hall on the Samaritas website:

How many times have you said, “I’m not ready yet”? We can apply that phrase to many things in life, especially when deciding if it is time to downsize the family home and make a big move into a senior living community.

Samaritas one of Michigan’s largest faith-based health and human services non-profit organizations is joining forces with Thrivent to host a virtual panel discussion to highlight and explore the benefits, fears, reasons, hesitations, and realities of moving into a senior living community.

Panelists will include representatives from Thrivent, Samaritas, Oasis Senior Living and the Area Agency on Aging. Contact Lauren Brosch at for more information.

No products will be sold.

For more information or to register please visit the registration page here.

Proposed Guidelines for Service on Synod Permanent Judicial Commission

Provided by Sharon Moore, Stated Clerk

Service on Synod PJC

In response to very good questions about participation on a Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) I provide the following information.

  1. What are the responsibilities of our elected members of the PJC?
    • According to the Book of Order (BOO), the elected members of the PJC are part of the church’s exercise of authority via church discipline. D-1.0101 BOO. The members are responsible for overseeing the church’s disciplinary process when necessary.  While PJC operates in a manner similar to secular judicial systems it is not a substitute, and in fact it acts beyond what the secular judicial system can do.  This system exists to honor God; to preserve the purity of the church; to achieve justice and compassion for all participants; to correct or restrain wrongdoing in order to bring members to repentance and restoration; to uphold the dignity of those who have been harmed by disciplinary offenses; to restore the unity of the church by removing the causes of discord and division; and to secure the just, speedy, and economical determination of proceedings.
    • One of the key functions of the members of the PJC is to be sure that in all respects, all participants are accorded procedural safeguards and due process.
  1. When does the Synod PJC meet?
    • It meets when called by the Stated Clerk of the Synod; usually because a complaint was filed and there is need for adjudication of a disciplinary or remedial matter.
  1. Training of PJC
    • When a complaint is filed the members are notified and called to attend a meeting to elect the Moderator/Vice-Moderator, Clerk/Vice-clerk for the PJC.
    • Next the members are provided a training session to inform and/or refresh on the procedural and substantive rules that apply for a particular matter. This training is conducted by the staff of the Office of General Assembly.
    • If in the course of adjudication the members are unclear on substantive or procedural matters additional training/guidance will be provided to allow the members to reach a decision.
  1. Right now there is a remedial case pending before the Synod PJC, the new members would not participate in that adjudication; but would be called for any future matters.
  1. Some further points of clarification about PJC terms
    • The term of each member of a permanent judicial commission shall be six years. During that term a member may not be called to serve actively at all.  D-5.0102 BOO.
    • If the member’s term is expired, but there is a matter presented to the Synod PJC and a quorum cannot be obtained, “the stated clerk shall immediately select, by rotation from that roster, a sufficient number of former members of the permanent judicial commission to constitute a quorum.” D-5.0206a BOO.  This means that while a member’s six year term may have expired with/without adjudicating a matter, that member could be called back to serve because circumstances show there are not enough current PJC members to satisfy the number for a quorum.
  1. In a “post-Covid” era there may be the need to travel as part of service on PJC. Since meetings are scheduled by the PJC members there is room to set a boundary for no nighttime travel, or other travel restrictions.  Also, with the flexibility we have learned in the Covid era if travel is a limitation to participation I believe that can be negotiated/navigated in favor of participation.