About a year ago I was in a class for the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) orientation. This is the denomination I hope to pastor in sometime soon. The class was called Vocational Excellence. It covered the responsibilities pastors needs to attend to, denominational polity and systems that the ECC has in place to care for clergy. They also submitted us to a barrage of psychological tests and gave some helpful suggestions for self-care. On the whole, this course was a meaningful experience for me. I met some great people, discovered some things about myself and even got to meet with a spiritual director.
As part of the course, I also underwent a psychological evaluation (which I passed by the way) and met with a counselor to discuss my results. In reviewing the data from one of my tests, the counselor pointed at a line graph and said typically they expect clergy to be more ‘dominant’ than my results indicate that I am.
It was a defensive moment for me. I described my past experience of being under strong hierarchical leadership which I felt was unhealthy. I had no desire to ‘dominant’ others but I desire to be collaborative in my leadership. My counselor did not smile, but she did write something down and pressed me to describe myself further. If my explanations were satisfying to her, she in no way tipped her hand.
The funny thing about this is that if I shared the results with my friends who have known me longest and best, I don’t think anyone would describe me as ‘not dominant.’ They might describe me as awkward, obnoxious, insane, but I don’t think they would have said I was ‘not dominant.’ For better or for worse I tend to steer every conversation I’m in, I challenge the status quo and speak up when I think people are wrong. I have no problem being direct or directional. So I chalked up my non-dominating results to my convictions and experience, more than my actual psychological make-up.
But I have been thinking about that lately. When I took that class and the accompanying diagnostic tests, I was unemployed. I had interviewed and been rejected by a couple of churches. Most churches I applied to, never called me back. Some pastors affirmed me in ministry (just not ministry with them or with any church they knew of). This was a season of self doubt. I’ve felt like a shadow of my former self. I felt unwanted. This was my mental state when I took diagnostic tests. It wasn’t that I was ‘not dominant.’ It was that I felt insignificant and wondered what I had to offer.
In a way I still feel like that. I do not have gainful employment in my chosen profession (pastor). Instead I work at a hardware store in my community. I know in my heart I was made more for preaching and teaching than plumbing fittings and power tools, but this is where I am. But the thing is, I am good at my job. Without a fancy job title, I am a ‘person in charge’ while on shift and I help direct fellow employees and set priorities. When problems arise, I jump in and handle it. Co-workers look to me for leadership and I rise to the challenge. I know this is not where I am supposed to be for the long haul, but there are gifts here too.
The past couple of days I have been reviewing my profile on file with ECC. I am now actively searching for a pastor position again. I am hopeful that I will find a place that I thrive in ministry. When I do I hope to be collaborative in leadership and will be to some extent but I know also that I probably will dominate. And I’m okay with that (sort of).