Why Self-Awareness is Helpful for Ministry Leaders

by Rev. Mark Muckler
Over the past ten years, through varying seminars, continuing education classes, programs, and other ministerial offerings, I’ve been blessed with a myriad of opportunities to help me better understand myself as a called & ordained clergyman.  

Prior to ordination, I remember taking a psychological analysis, and being in holy conversation with a number of clergy about my gifts and the specifics of my call to ministry. Since then, I’ve taken the Myers Briggs, 360 By Design, FIRO-B, Blizzard, Clifton Strengths Finder, DiSC, and a handful of spiritual gifts inventories, all in an effort to know myself better.  

More recently, I participated in a week long “Emotional Intelligence and Human Relations Skills Workshop” made possible through a Western North Carolina Conference leadership grant for clergy. This particular workshop was unlike any I’d ever participated in. It was not a retreat, typical seminar, group spiritual direction, fellowship among colleagues, or even a “how-to” seminar for church leaders. This was an intentional opportunity to know thyself and to become more self-aware of my own feelings and the feelings and emotions of others.   

If you’ve never heard the term “emotional intelligence,” I described the term and my experience to my children as a weeklong workshop where we asked one another in circle group conversations throughout the week, “How did that make you feel?” or “How do you think others would feel about that?” Emotional Intelligence, as described by Daniel Goleman, is “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.”  

As part of the workshop, we were invited ahead of time to take an “Emotional & Social Competencies Inventory (ESCI)” designed to assess 12 competencies grouped in 4 areas; 1) Self-Awareness: emotional self-awareness, 2) Self-Management: emotional self-control, achievement orientation, positive outlook, adaptability, 3) Social Awareness:  empathy, and organizational awareness, and 4) Relationship Management: influence, coaching and mentoring, conflict management, inspirational leadership, and teamwork.  

As it relates to self-awareness, our emotional self-awareness invites us to consider how our emotions affect our performance as clergy. Keeping our emotions in check is important. In any given day, our experiences can range from preparing a sermon for Sunday, meeting with a family about having their child baptized, handling complaints about a specific ministry, visiting a shut-in prior to having a life-threatening surgery, leading a devotion at a minister’s association luncheon, answering a phone call about hosting a visiting choir, responding to an email about a social issue that needs a personal conversation instead, or meeting with a disgruntled church member about the worship service going past 12 o’clock. Lord knows there are a wealth of emotions, feelings, and anxiety that our church members hold, not to mention whatever might be going on in our own personal lives as clergy men and women.  

For us to know oneself and become self-aware, strengthens us to better relate with those whom we are called to be in relationship with. It’s important as we strive to handle the emotions, perspectives, and circumstances of others with unwavering grace and faithfulness.  

Lord knows that in our career, each of us will come in contact with hundreds, if not thousands, of lay persons from a number of different churches whom each have their own personality, emotions, personal history, and experiences. Being self-aware of our own feelings and emotions, ought to invite us to ponder the ways in which we know or don’t know those whom we’re called to serve, and that can take some time, and intentional efforts.  

As clergymen and clergywomen, let us continue to be challenged to be self-aware of our own emotions and feelings as we’re called to lead congregations in fruitful ministry, who often times have a myriad of emotions all their own. If you’ve not taken advantage of this helpful resource or participated in an Emotional Intelligence and Human Relations Skills Workshop before, I’d highly recommend it. There’s another workshop scheduled to be in Hickory in the spring. To learn more, check out www.leadwncc.org and https://www.eqhr.org
Follow Jesus. Make Disciples. Transform the World.