By Ronald E. Keener
Colette Rice was a civil servant for the federal government for 27 years before becoming executive pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church. “Over the span of my career I have amassed skills and developed competencies in the areas of personnel management, budget and finance, procurement, and leadership development – all of which have prepared me to serve in my current capacity,” she says.
She was on a career development track focused on administration and leadership development, all of which prepared her for leading the staff of her church, which has an attendance of 7,500. “I eventually progressed to serve in multiple management-level positions and ultimately retired as the deputy executive officer of administration for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, Board of Immigration Appeals,” she says.
Who was instrumental in your becoming ordained?
Our senior pastor, Delman Coates, hired me to serve the position as assistant to the pastor in March 2007 and swiftly put things in place to prepare me for ordination. On November 7, 2007 I was one of two women ordained to the Gospel ministry, which marked a monumental moment representing the first female clergy to be ordained in the history of the church.
How were you received in that historic move?
As an African-American female indoctrinated in the Baptist faith, my gifts and callings were met with the backlash of a tradition that held to the belief that God did not call women to preach. Let it suffice to say that while the journey was paved with tears, my strength was cultivated through the struggle. I learned during that season of immense adversity that if you remain humble, faithful, available and teachable, you need but only rest on God’s promise stated in I Thess. 5:24 “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this!”
The church was founded in 1981 and you have been in the congregation since 1987. Any observations about seeing a church grow to 7,500 in those years?
The main thing I would offer is how essential it is for the church to strive to remain relevant in the lives of believers. Several important observations are (1) Love is foundational, (2) Critique, assessment and evaluation of ministry impact and effectiveness is critical, (3) Change is inevitable, and (4) With God, nothing is impossible.
What was the learning process in the 27 years of your government work that prepared you for the executive pastor position?
The process is primarily one of studying the environment, adapting best practices from past experiences (and leaving behind those things that were not portable to this arena), and most importantly, learning the heart of my pastor and embracing and embodying the vision.
The organization chart indicates that you have 12 direct reports and 14 indirect reports. What supervisory or management approach do you use to maintain oversight of so many people and functions?
My primary management style is management by coaching and developing. While it can be quite time-consuming, it is very rewarding. I gain a lot of pleasure from taking a vision that our pastor casts and guiding the creativity, strategic planning and implementation processes to see the vision through to fruition.
What is the church’s activity now in social justice and community issues?
In 2012 the Pastor Coates was the leading clergy advocate in the state of Maryland for marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples [that passed in Maryland on the November 6 ballot]. He and many others regarded this as a social justice issue, and his advocacy this social justice issue has been widely acknowledged as being responsible for the legislation’s successful passing.
We have taken a very active role in addressing the foreclosure crisis, which has greatly impacted those in our community, by hosting several foreclosure workshops that resulted in a number of our members (and those in the surrounding community) avoiding home foreclosure. In addition, we rallied for health care reform, supported legislation to end the death penalty in Maryland, and conducted HIV/AIDS testing and hosted awareness sessions on a yearly basis.
We have forums and town hall meetings on a range of community and policy issues, including most recently our hosting a series of education roundtables to bring together members and the community to strategically think through how to impact public education in our county.
What are the goals for next year; what is new on the horizon?
While building expansion seems inevitable, we are currently seeking to maximize our existing space. We are in the midst of a sanctuary expansion project, which will provide for additional seating to accommodate the growth. 2013 has been designated as “The Year of Impact.” We will start out with a two-part training series on “The Missional Church” as we seek to develop our local and foreign missions strategy.
Are small group ministries a part of your church’s outreach and growth?
Yes. We encourage assimilation and growth through active involvement within the ministries of the church. To assist with this process, we have training sessions to help members identify their gifts. We also host ministry open house sessions periodically to familiarize members with the various opportunities to serve.
You have on your website MEBC Connect where members need accounts for access to their church record. How does that work?
MEBC Connect enables our members to log on to their member profile, update information, register for events, activities and ministry opportunities, and track training and ministry participation. Our data management system is ACS Technologies and we try to maximize the use of all of its features.
Is there a visioning process or planning cycle for the church with its leaders and elders?
The pastor leads our visioning process in consultation with staff and ministry leaders. We also have a Leadership Institute held bi-annually to impart the vision to ministry leaders and their teams and provide them with direction and guidance in moving forward.
I attended a black church one Sunday and I never felt more loved and welcomed as I did then. Does worship in a black church differ from that of white churches?
I really can’t say because I don’t get out much 🙂 I just know that there is something special about Sunday morning when the saints gather together for worship to express love and adoration for this awesome God we serve. I can only hope that others anticipate every opportunity and enjoy themselves as much as I do. I must say that at Mt. Ennon, we strive to create unparalleled worship experiences that people will not soon forget. www.MtEnnon.org