Everyone likes to be recognized for their contributions. It can be problematic, however, when recognition becomes the center of your motivation. Whether you are leading a particular committee or project or have a more formal leadership position within the church, it can be tempting to make the work you do more about yourself than the ones you're serving. Understanding the ways such an approach can ultimately harm your ministry may be the key to keeping your ego in check.
Equating Success With Esteem
An inflated ego is only strong on the surface. In reality, it is fragile and easily offended. If your ego gets out of control, you are more likely to take even the slightest criticism about your project or ministry as a personal attack, which can make it difficult for people to approach you when they have a problem.
Another common outcome of equating your program's success with your own self-esteem is that you may become reluctant to share the spotlight or credit with others who work alongside you. This can lead to resentment and hesitation to work with you in the future. Working together is just as much about building healthy relationships as it is about the task at hand, and making sure that credit is given where it is due is crucial to showing others your respect and appreciation.
Resisting New Ideas
When your ego is involved in the success of your work, it can stifle creativity. A threatened ego wants to play it safe so that no mistakes are made. In choosing not to take reasonable risks, however, you may miss out on great opportunities that ultimately make the ministry more effective.
A common side effect of an egocentric project manager is a fervent resistance to change. This is most likely to manifest during work on repeated projects that happen every year. It's easy to cling too heavily to your own vision and expertise when you have more experience than those you are leading. If you put your ego aside, however, and welcome others' ideas, you may discover a way to make your church's pet project even more fantastic than it has been in years past.
Focusing on Outward Works
When you are trying to do something good for your congregation or the community, the outcome is certainly important. For people of faith, however, so is the soul. An out-of-control ego often leads to a lot of internal struggles that have the potential to become external conflicts:
Ultimately, it may not matter how much money you raise for a local soup kitchen if your unresolved issues alienate people so much that they don't want to work with you in the future. Unchecked negative thoughts and feelings can also lead more easily to personal burnout, meaning that you are more likely to crash when the current project is over.
Denying Need for Personal Reflection
Once you allow your ego to get involved in your leadership, self-reflection may feel like the enemy. After all, if you look too closely, you are likely to see things you need to change. To combat this, make inner work an intentional part of your schedule.
One way to do this is to keep regular appointments with a counselor, therapist or spiritual director who can help you delve into issues you want to address and keep you accountable. This may feel indulgent or even selfish when you first start, especially if you are not used to taking care of yourself in this way. It is necessary, though, to equip yourself with the humility and wisdom you need to lead others effectively.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be appreciated for the work that you do. If serving your ego becomes one of the main goals of your ministry, however, you will likely fail. Learning how to keep yourself in check is good for everyone.