In my experience, senior pastors are not always the humblest human beings. I am a senior pastor, so I should know. My friend says it is because it takes a bit of ego to stand up in front of a congregation every week and claim to know something about God! Hopefully, the ego is confidence in the co-mingling of the Spirit, God’s call, and our abilities – and not just plain old arrogance. Either way, I have been thinking about my ego a lot this year because my church, First Baptist Columbia, Missouri, has started a pastoral residency program. Our first resident, Brittany McDonald-Null, is spending two years with us learning the ropes of pastoring. I am serving as her mentor. I know that to mentor her well my ego must retreat. I must pull back on my role as pastor to make room for her to serve and learn. She is preaching regularly, leading in worship, and providing pastoral care. I am trying to make space for her thrive.
Every week, she and I meet for an hour to talk about preaching and the pastoral life. I have had to spend time thinking about the way that I do things and if it is “the way” or “my way” or “a way.” Certainly, we talk about my style of ministry and the way First Baptist does things, but my goal as a mentor is for Brittany to adopt her own style, not to simply mimic what I do. Which means, we often spend time talking about Brittany’s personality versus my personality and how that impacts the way each of us approaches pastoring. I want her to find her own way and be true to her strengths and calling.
In his book Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership, author John Dickson defines humility as “holding power loosely for the sake of others.” He says, “Humility both recognizes our inherent worth and seeks to use whatever power we have at our disposal on behalf of others.” Sometimes we think about humility as the opposite of self-confidence, but according to Dickson that isn’t what humility means. Instead, it is the realization that while I have confidence in my ability as a pastor, I know many great pastors. Perhaps being confident in my ability as a pastor, having a bit of an ego, is a good thing for the mentoring relationship because I can look at Brittany and think, she is going to be a great pastor too. So, maybe my ego isn’t too big to be a good mentor. Except, I just called myself humble. . .
Carol McEntyre is the pastor at First Baptist Church, Columbia, Missouri. She will be sharing reflections on her journey this year–as will her pastoral resident, Brittany McDonald-Null.