Seeing Ourselves Clearly to Love, Lead, and Serve Better (Part 1)

Eleven:28 is blessed to have many partners that we trust.  Casey McCollum is one of the best Enneagram experts we know. 

Casey has 15 years of experience as a minister, as well as experience in the nonprofit sector and as a university instructor.  He was first introduced to the Enneagram in 2006 and has trained with Master Enneagram Teacher Suzanne Stabile as well as with The Narrative Enneagram.  He leads workshops all over the country for churches, businesses, nonprofits, therapists, schools and universities.  He is married to Kasey (yep!) who is a hospital chaplain.  They have two kids, Clare and Micah and live in Denton TX.


The Enneagram is hot right now. It’s been around for thousands of years, but it’s having a moment. You’ve probably heard someone talk about it or had someone try to “type” you. At first glance, the Enneagram (any-uh-gram) is a personality typing system that helps us understand who we are what motivates us. But in reality, it is so much more than that.

The Enneagram identifies 9 ways of seeing and experiencing the world and describes with amazing accuracy how we think, feel, and act. It is a fantastic tool for all kinds of relationships because it not only helps us see ourselves clearly but gives us compassion for other people in our lives. It also identifies core struggles for each type, which can help us deal with automatic and habitual patterns of behavior. Knowing these can help us get out of our own way so we can grow emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. The Enneagram itself doesn’t change us, but it helps us be honest about who we are and gives us clear steps for real transformation.


The Indispensable Skill

I was in church ministry for 15 years so I know what it’s like in the trenches. No matter your role, you wear all kinds of hats at some point; preacher, teacher, counselor, negotiator, entrepreneur, volunteer coordinator, financial planner, receptionist, project manager, and of course janitor. In all this mix, it can be easy to lose yourself.

There are many skills needed for ministry but there is one that is absolutely indispensable; self-awareness.

Those called to ministry are called to service and self-surrender and I would argue that self-awareness and self-acceptance always precedes genuine self-surrender. The deeper we know ourselves, the more of ourselves we can give up in pursuit of Christ-likeness. In fact, it’s those hidden parts, primarily hidden from ourselves, that are often what enslaves us.

There are other tools out there that can help us see ourselves clearly, but in my 15 years of ministry I haven’t found a better one than the Enneagram.

Knowing your “number” or “type” can take some time, so be patient. Online tests are an ok place to start your Enneagram journey but are really not sufficient and can easily lead to mistyping. Taking an online test simply gives you a snapshot in time and we are not always honest with ourselves as we answer. Also, and most importantly, the Enneagram is about motivation not just behavior, and this is hard to measure in an online test.

What’s really needed is knowledge about the types through reading and workshops. In fact the Enneagram was taught orally for much of its history and that’s really the best way to learn your type. If you would rather start with a book, there are many out there but the best primer is The Road Back to You by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron.


Why Do I Do What I Do?

Once you have some basic information, what’s needed next is to engage is honest and sustained self-observation over time and in different contexts. This allows you to reflect on not just what you do, but why you do the things you do. Again, the Enneagram is ALL about motivation and not just behavior.

It can be helpful for some to think about yourself at around age twenty as you think through the types. It’s also helpful to reflect on how you think, feel, and act at home, this is not always the case but usually we let down our guards a bit more at home where we feel safe. It’s also a good idea to ask others how they experience you, especially people that care enough about you to tell you the truth. This can be really vulnerable but also really helpful.

​Here is what Enneagram teachers Don Riso and Russ Hudson say about knowing your number:

“When you find your number, even if it takes a while, waves of relief and embarrassment, of elation and chagrin, are likely to sweep over you. Things that you have always known unconsciously about yourself will suddenly become clear, and life patterns will emerge. You can be sure that when this happens, you have identified you type correctly.”


Once you know your number, the real work begins. I will discuss this more in part 2 along with how to best use the Enneagram in your setting as a ministry leader.

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