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The Day I Threw Away My Easter Sermon

I was never going to have time for a long sermon today. Hence why the one I posted last night was brief by my standards. I had two opportunities to preach it: once at 8:30 am at Addlestone, then at the 10:00 Knaphill service. The Addlestone service had to be an abbreviated communion so I could make the twenty-minute drive back to Knaphill. It then also had to be brief in the later service, because that included a baptism and we were also keeping the Junior Church in for the whole time.

I wrote the sermon earlier in the week, but I kept it up on screen for days, worrying at it, making the odd minor change but mostly leaving it untouched. I had been uneasy about it all the time. I  never could let it settle, even when I printed it out. Was I unhappy with the content? Not really. I can’t explain publicly why I was uncomfortable, because it was more about how it might accidentally be perceived. But it was all I had, so I took it with me.

By the time I got to the 8:30, I had already got through an outdoor ‘sunrise’ service at 7:00 am. Not much sunrise, with complete cloud cover and persistent drizzle, but you know what I mean. As we read John 20 there, and as I listened to my church treasurer give a beautiful reflection, some different ideas formed in my head. I turned some of them into the intercessions that followed the talk Chris gave. When I got to Addlestone, I jotted them down , ditched my prepared sermon and gave an informal, if untidy talk on them. Whether people appreciated it I don’t know, because I had to depart during the final hymn, leaving Richard our deacon to pronounce the blessing.

As I drove to Knaphill, I for once switched off the iPod and prayed about whether I should do the same there. The thought came rapidly that I should.

Ditching a carefully prepared sermon is not usual behaviour for me. I do not subscribe to the view that the Holy Spirit only inspires preachers in the moment of preaching. (And hence I do not hold with the nonsense that only extempore preaching is Spirit-led.) I believe the Spirit is present in the struggle of prayer and study that goes into preparation. I am self-aware enough to know that if I have carefully thought through what I am going to say, it is usually unwise of me to depart from it radically on the day, because the replacement words will not have been carefully considered and may lead into some traps.
So far, so very ‘J’ in Myers Briggs terms. There is a big part of me that likes things planned and mapped out. My wife will tell you of a time when we were on holiday, touring the Isle of Wight on a bus season ticket, when she spontaneously wanted us to catch a different bus from Newport Bus Station to another destination, and I panicked. This all fits.

But I’m actually borderline ‘J’ and ‘P’ in Myers Briggs. There is also a large part of me that can be spontaneous and unplanned. So if the J part of me was fearful, the P part was excited. On this occasion, I’m glad I tore up the script. By way of summary, I said the Resurrection was for four groups of people:

Firstly, it is for those who are looking into tombs. Mary comes to the tomb, yes, to do the last thing she can in honour of the man she followed, but also I believe she comes as a way of coping with her disappointment and shattered dreams. Many of us have broken dreams, or we are staring into tombs. We may be bereaved. A loved one may be dying. We may be terminally ill. Or we are metaphorically staring into a tomb. Easter is for all such people. Beyond the unanswered prayer of Holy Saturday comes the hope of Easter Day.

Secondly, it is for people who are struggling to understand. I kept some of the original sermon here. The disciples don’t expect the Resurrection – as good Jews they either believed it would happen at the end of time or they didn’t believe in it at all. They were not gullible ancient simpletons. They do not immediately understand, but they have an encounter. Easter encourages those who are struggling with faith and questions still to walk the way with Jesus. We do not have to wait until we have everything sorted in our minds.


Thirdly
, it is for people who need to hear Jesus speak their name. Jesus says, “Mary.” Chris told a wonderful story at the 7:00 sunrise about a British journalist from the Sunday Telegraph flying to South Africa to interview Desmond Tutu. At the end of the interview, Tutu changed from interviewee to witness. He had surmised that the journalist was a lapsed churchgoer, and reminded him that God loved him just as he was, because God only makes masterpieces. The question of hearing Jesus call you by name was pertinent to a baptism service, as we formally recalled the name given to the baby. Many of us need to know that Jesus addresses us personally. It is his word of love and affirmation, in contrast to the way we are misaddressed and abused in the world. Easter gives us that hope. Jesus is back from the dead to do this.

Fourthly, it is for people who need the challenge to be a movement, not a monument. I find the words of Jesus to Mary, “Do not hold onto me” puzzling, until I see that he is pointing her to the future. He will be returning to the Father, and she has a task to tell the disciples. Easter sends us forward in mission. The trouble many of us have with great spiritual experiences is that we want to build an edifice or an institution instead. We want blue plaques for our spirituality. As Simon Peter garbled at the Transfiguration about building booths for Jesus, Moses and Elijah so we want to have a fixed, static reminder rather than hear the challenge to move forwards and outwards.

And at that point I ended – like I said, there was no neat conclusion, because it was a late rethink.

Was it worth the change? What do you think?

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Introverts In Leadership And Ministry

Earlier this year, I chronicled as part of my sabbatical my investigations into ministry and personality type. My current reading is Adam McHugh‘s book Introverts In The Church, which Scot McKnight has picked up on.

Now I find I’m by no means the only Methodist minister interested in this topic. American minister Beth Quick posted an article last week entitled Introverts Can Make The Best Leaders, in which she cited an article from Forbes Magazine entitled Why Introverts Can Make The Best Leaders.

By way of a quick exercise, I thought I would take the five characteristics that the Forbes author and muse briefly on them.

1. Introverts think first and speak later. Well, sometimes a calm, measured approach is welcomed. When life is complex (and it is), careful reflection should be valued. I’m not sure it always is, especially in an always-on, text-sending, 24-hour-news-channel world.

2. Introverts focus on depth. I like this and I think it’s important. However, some people want ministers who are strong on chit-chat. They think it is a sign the minister is interested in people. It can be, but it can also be about a church that can’t get beyond superficiality.

3. Introverts exude calm. I haven’t often been told this! Although when I worked in an office and someone phoned in with a complaint, I was often the person who dealt with it. Many outwardly calm introverts are paddling furiously beneath the waves. There may be a genuine air of calm about a lot of introverts, but a lot of us have coping strategies, especially when calm is required in a group setting. The article quotes some examples. I rehearse conversations before I have them.

4. Introverts let their fingers do the talking. Yes. I love preaching, but I love writing. Given time, I can order my thoughts better that way.

5. Introverts embrace solitude. Please stop pejoratively calling the introvert a ‘loner’ and the extravert a ‘people-person’. You know the prejudice: serial killers turn out to be loners. When we withdraw from the exhausting task of being with people, we reflect and think.

None of this is meant to demean extravert leaders, but it is designed as a plea for people to widen their vision about the people who can lead and appropriate styles of leadership.

What do you think? What is your experience?

Ministry And Personality Type Surveys: Starting To Draw Some Threads Together

If all the shortcomings of my questionnaires that I mentioned can be indulged, then the summary would read something like this. There is a remarkable coherence between the responses of ministers and church members displayed throughout all the sections of the surveys. This may be a promising sign that incidents of church-minister tensions are relatively low.

Within that broadly harmonious state of affairs, there is a slight preference for extraverts in the ministry, but not overwhelmingly so. In particular, there is more than one sign that the overall preferred Myers Briggs personality type is ENFP.

However, that needs qualifying in a couple of ways. Firstly, a couple of particular characteristics of the ‘typical’ ENFP seem less appreciated. One is ‘charismatic personality’, and I suggested this may be because we have seen several high-profile instances of the abusive version of this. The other is ‘imagination’, and this seems a shame when such a quality has much to offer when ministering in a postmodern culture. It could just be a small sign of how ill-equipped we are ‘to serve the present age’.

Secondly, the section where ‘imagination’ was not valued very highly, was one where six of the sixteen personality types ranked significantly higher than the other ten. Of those six, five were introverted types. Introversion, then, still has a significant place to play in Christian ministry.

That is about as objective as I can be. However, I have throughout the last few posts on this subject often linked the results to my own personality type, INTP. And I did so, because I set out to explore this topic during my sabbatical due to the tensions I have felt during my ministry (and even before, when I contemplated ‘candidating’) about the relationship between my personality and the common expectations of a minister. 

How do INTP’s fare in the survey? Not very well. Individual aspects are appreciated, for example the ‘big picture’ and ‘future vision’ passions of an iNtuitive, and the openness and flexibility of a Perceiver. Indeed, these are two of the elements of the ENFP. However, I think two factors need to be set against this.

Firstly, the ‘E’ and ‘F’ qualities of an ENFP have a fairly instant attraction for those who like traditional models of pastoral ministry: the tendency of the Extravert to be a ‘people person’, and of a Feeling personality to seek harmony. In contrast, the often more reserved Introvert and the (coldly?) logical Thinker are less welcome. 

Secondly, it’s not just about individual elements of the personality type, it’s about the matrix created by all four. We INTPs generally like to analyse and solve complex problems. That may make us admired, but not necessarily loved. (I’m not suggesting a minister should try to be loved, but it may mean that the gifts people like me have to offer may not be readily appreciated, and that makes for tensions. Of the sixteen types, INTP was ranked around 13 to 14.) 

So where does someone like me go with this? First of all, it’s important to remember as Pam has rightly pointed out in at least two comments, not everything someone does is or should be determined by their personality type.  The four axes of the Type Indicator are about greater and lesser preferences; they are each like a spectrum. While I have a strong preference for Introversion, I am borderline between Judging and Perceiving. (And INTJs rank much higher in the survey!) Myers Briggs theory acknowledges that we do not always act out of our preferred style: we still sometimes act in a way redolent of our lesser preferences. Sometimes even a person like me with that strong preference for introversion will act as an extravert. In my case it can be when I need to do so and don’t feel like it, I tell myself inwardly that I need to be ‘in rôle’ as a minister to accomplish the task. Doing so tends to be exhausting, and it is then an open question that can only be discerned by various spiritual methods whether such exhaustion is simply the price to be paid for following in Christ’s call or a sign that I do not fit and should not be there. 

Secondly, there is a need to revisit the whole issue of ‘call’ and ‘dream’. Did God call me to the ministry? Yes. What kind of dream did he give me for ministry? I ask that second question, because the issue has been stirred in my mind by a blog post I’ve seen this evening, ‘The 4 Ds Of Leadership‘. It touches on the dreams God gave Joseph in Genesis and reminds us that God can bring about the dreams he implants in us. I do have some issues with the article, because it can’t be the whole picture. Not only are there three more Ds to come, it isn’t enough to link ministry to dreams. It’s not just about our passions, however God-given they are; it is fundamentally about servanthood. However, divinely inspired dreams are still part of the picture, and in my case they involved teaching the faith to equip God’s people. That’s one thing that fires me up, and sadly I sometimes only find a notable minority of people interested in it.

And if I’m accepting but qualifying the idea of dreams, I also need to note that British Methodism has become equivocal about the notion of a call to the ministry. Or at very least, it seems capable of saying some apparently contradictory things. Go to a ministerial Synod and listen to the ‘probationer ministers’ (those in their first two years of ministry, but who have not yet been ordained) asked the statutory questions each year, you will hear them quizzed as to whether they still believe they are called as much as when they offered themselves to the church. So there is still a strong element of call present. Against that must be set the claim in a document dated December 2007 from the Stationing Review Group that when it comes to stationing ministers, the denomination believes less in being called to a particular appointment and more in being sent. I quote:

We reviewed the possible options for more frequent stationing cycles, but felt that the distinctive ethos of the Methodist principle of “sending” rather than “calling” could best be managed on an annual basis. (SRG116 Consultation paper December 2007.doc, page 4 of 19)

Conference reserves the right to station a minister where it believes that minister is most needed. Not that Conference would deny the need to do so prayerfully, but it seems that the evidence suggests the official Methodist position of a minister’s call is that it exists in terms of a general call to the ordained work, but it does not exist in a specific call to a particular circuit or other appointment. The Stationing Action Group will do its best to take into account a minister’s gifts, but sometimes general need seems to outrank that concern. This will surprise some people who have been working with the assumption that a call is involved in inviting a minister to a circuit. It will be a major surprise to many of our ecumenical partners, who certainly operate on that assumption.

Where do I go from here? I want to follow God’s call, exercise the gifts given to me and pursue the dream (vision?) given to me through the call. Yet at the same time I don’t want that to degenerate into self-indulgence. I recognise that the Christian life is characterised by servanthood. Realistically, I’m not a good fit with the traditional model of the pastor. Stationing me in a mutually fulfilling appointment for churches and minister could be quite tricky! Take just these two paragraphs from the Personality Page profile of an INTP to which I linked above:

INTPs do not like to lead or control people. They’re very tolerant and flexible in most situations, unless one of their firmly held beliefs has been violated or challenged, in which case they may take a very rigid stance. The INTP is likely to be very shy when it comes to meeting new people. On the other hand, the INTP is very self-confident and gregarious around people they know well, or when discussing theories which they fully understand.

The INTP has no understanding or value for decisions made on the basis of personal subjectivity or feelings. They strive constantly to achieve logical conclusions to problems, and don’t understand the importance or relevance of applying subjective emotional considerations to decisions. For this reason, INTPs are usually not in-tune with how people are feeling, and are not naturally well-equipped to meet the emotional needs of others.

Now put that mindset in pastoral ministry: I can tell you, it sounds uncannily accurate! If you want the traditional pastor, you might like having someone who doesn’t like to control but you probably want a leader. You’re unlikely to want somebody who is shy with new people, and almost certainly not a minister who is ‘not naturally well-equipped to meet the emotional needs of others.’

One thing that saves me at times is being married to a wife who has a vastly different personality from mine. A counsellor told me about five years ago that Myers Briggs theory suggested a good marriage was between two people who differed in just one of the four categories. I don’t know what the evidence for that claim is, but – although Debbie has never taken the MBTI – we would both likely hazard a guess that we differ in three, if not all four sections! Although that means we can have a lot of hard work understanding each other laid on top of all the usual misunderstandings between men and women, one great advantage is that Debbie is the person who spots the needs and says, “You need to visit Mrs X.” I have learned over the years to value and trust her judgments. She has access to understanding that I simply don’t hafve. Our marriage is not only an illustration of what often happens in ministry, where the spouse behind the scenes makes telling contributions, it is an argument for teamwork incorporating people of varying gifts and personalities. 

Therefore, one thing I know I need to do as a minister is to say to churches and circuits, here is a description of the kind of person I am. I believe that these are my strengths, and these are my weaknesses. Can you live with a minister like that? And I would want to build a team around me of people who offer the gifts I don’t have, so that we can offer a rounded ministry to the community. That is something I think every minister would benefit from doing. It may be that those whose personality types and gifting more obviously fit the conventional expectations may not see the need for this so quickly as a self-confessed misfit like me does. Although having said that, the first person to mention this in any of these posts over the last few days was Dave Perry, here. And he’s an ENFP!

Well, enough for now, I’ve got to get up early in the morning for my annual blood test for cholesterol, kidneys and you-name-it. So time to sign off, and I look forward to your comments so that you can improve my thinking and contribute to what I believe should be a critical debate in the church.

Ministry And Personality Type Surveys Part 3: Up The Workers

I’m not going to label blog posts any more with the day number of the sabbatical. Have I returned to my duties? No. I’ve had the thirteen weeks of the sabbatical now, but am tacking on a week’s leave to the end to avoid problems in the summer.

Tonight, I’m going to trail the results from the final section of the surveys into ministry and personality type. However, that doesn’t mean this is the final entry on the subject. For one thing, what I’m about to report has the potential to be quite complex, and I don’t think I can easily nail my thoughts just with my initial immediate reactions. But also, having gone through every section of the questionnaires, I shall then want to step back and think about some of the wider implications. 

Section 3 had one question. I listed sixteen characteristics of a good worker. I asked ministers to pick the five that most represented them, and church members to choose the five that most appealed to them in a minister. I did not ask respondents to put their five in any order. I just wanted to get a good picture of the attractive qualities in the work of a minister.

Each of the sixteen words represented one personality type in Myers Briggs. (You may recall there are sixteen types.) They were the summary words for each type taken from Jerry Gilpin‘s sheet, ‘The Sixteen Types at Work’, which he extracted from ‘Introduction to Type and Teams’ by Hirsh, Hirsh and Hirsh. (The book appears to be currently unavailable in the UK, hence no link to it.) Jerry’s sheet of course doesn’t just contain the single word that is described as the ‘hallmark’ of each type at work: it also contains a short paragraph describing them. More on that anon.

Some very interesting patterns emerged from the results. In the results from both the ministers and the congregants, six qualities emerged with significantly higher scores than the remaining ten. And it was the same six qualities on both the ministers’ results and the church members’ results. They weren’t in exactly the same order (although they weren’t far off), but that the same six emerged from both surveys clearly separated from the remaining ten seemed significant to me.

So what were they? The church members ranked the top six as follows:

1. Commitment (ISFJ)
2. Vision (INTJ)
3. Sensitivity (ISFP)
4. Integrity (INFJ)
5. Enthusiasm (ESFP)
6. Dependability (ISTJ).

The ministers put them in this order:

1. Commitment (ISFJ)
2=. Vision (INTJ) and Integrity (INFJ)
4=.  Enthusiasm (ESFP) and Dependability (ISTJ)
6. Sensitivity (ISFP) 

Within these six leading qualities, I notice a number of things. Having noticed with disappointment but little surprise that my own personality type of INTP, the hallmark of which is ‘Logic’, featured very low on both lists (14= among ministers and 13= in congregational aspirations), I was quickly heartened to notice that five of the qualities in the top six were introverted personality types. I suppose the Richard Dawkins of this world would make something of just how low logic is valued in the church, but so would liberal Christians and academics in the evangelical tradition. However, at least there are clear elements in the ways many introverts work that are valued, after all, in the church. 

Why? It’s hard to know exactly, but given the close correspondence between the two sets of results, let me venture this tentative thought. The vast majority of responses to the surveys came, I believe, from people in the older, historic denominations. These are traditions that more commonly function in introverted styles. Other studies show a higher preponderance of extraverts among the Pentecostal and charismatic churches. It isn’t uncommon to find in the more traditional denominations a fear of the ‘emotionalism’ that the newer churches display. Sometimes this is legitimate and well-founded, but could it be that on other occasions it is a fear of extraversion? And if so, might it be that we want to recruit ministers in our own image? It would be comforting, I suppose.

The other observation I want to make on this section of the results tonight is about our previous clear front-runner, ENFP. You’ll notice it doesn’t feature in the top six. Among the ministers, it ranked at 7, and among church members, it was number 8. You may say that was not far off the top six, but remember there was a clear gap between them and the rest of the field. For example, number 6 among the ministers, ISFP, attracted a response rate of 48.7%, but ENFP scored only 30.8%. Among the congregations, ISTJ at 6 had 51.7%, but ENFP made only 19.1%.

What I haven’t told you yet is the hallmark word used for ENFP. It was ‘Imagination’. Here’s my gut reaction: if imagination is commonly accepted as an important part of our approach to mission and worship in a postmodern context, then our ENFPs are incredibly important to the church. (Are you reading this, Sally and Dave?) So on the one hand, earlier results in the survey suggest we might have a good number of ENFPs in the ministry and appreciated by churches, but on the other it may be that one of their most important qualities is not appreciated as it needs to be today. 

Finally, I said I would come back to the question of the one-word hallmarks and the fuller paragraphs attached to each personality type at work. Again, just making the question brief could risk distortion in the results. That is a danger right through this survey, and not only in that way. So below, I’m going to reproduce those paragraphs for the top six plus ENFP and my own INTP. If this is a breach of copyright, perhaps the copyright owner would tell me and I shall gladly remove what follows. I am assuming I am OK, from the way these notes were distributed at the course and the fact that the book is out of print, but if I’m wrong, just let me know. 

The Top Six

ISFJ (Commitment) Conscientious, loyal and dedicated, ISFJs work well when roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. They take care of the specific and practical needs of people, relying on trusted, established methods. They seek harmony and stability, expeect others to be diligent, and make sacrifices to get the job done.

INTJ (Vision) Independent, individualistic and visionary, INTJs work well when they can develop strategies, use foresight, implement their ideas and create intellectual structures to meet goals. Unafraid of difficulty, they objectively analyse varied factors and global issues to meet complex challenges they can foresee in the future.

ISFP (Sensitivity) Low-key, flexible and modest, ISFPs work well when they can meet the individual needs of people in a direct and personal manner. Valuing harmony and tolerance, they are genuine, sincere, and open-minded. They enhance their work environments by ensuring that people are cared for with kindness and artistry.

INFJ (Integrity) Insightful, inspiring and creative, INFJs work well when they can concentrate on what matters to people, quietly exert influence, and model integrity. They envision ways to reach long-range goals, want to develop an atmosphere of mutual trust, and organise people and processes so that all benefit.

ESFP (Enthusiasm) Friendly, outgoing, and enthusiastic, ESFPs work well when they can use their vitality and humour to make things happen. They make collaborative efforts enjoyable by applying common sense and a flexible and spontaneous approach to meeting challenges. They like to use their warmth and generosity to help people. 

ISTJ (Dependability) Thorough, hardworking and responsible, ISTJs work well within traditional structures, following standard procedures and keeping track of facts and details. They clarify responsibilities and roles, seek to maintain what is efficient and useful, and follow through on their commitments. 

The Previous Yellow Jersey Holder?

ENFP (Imagination) Lively, charismatic and encouraging, ENFPs work well when they can innovate and be creative, persaude others to action, and stimulate positive change. They generate enthusiasm for startup activities, are tireless in pursuit of newfound interests, and anticipate the needs of people and organisations.

Me

INTP (Logic) Analytical, intellectual and ingenious, INTPs work well when they can operate independently, search for truth, and use rational approaches to solve complex problems. Their curiosity leads them to research theories, contemplate what makes things work, and discover the long-term consequences of any given plan.

Now I have to be frank and say that on that basis, I can see why INTPs like me don’t always last the distance as ministers in local church appointments. That description would put me more in academia (perhaps underlining what people have been suggesting to me about a PhD), or at very least working as some kind of researcher who is providing thinking to support those on the front line. Either that, or the research and analysis aspect of my personality somehow needs integrating into ‘conventional’ ministry. It works when a Bible study group wants to get to grips with something difficult, but not always at other times.

Anyway, that’s plenty for tonight, and far more than I thought I was going to type. Over to you for your comments below.

Sabbatical, Day 91: ENFPs Come A Cropper

Thank you to everyone who has joined in the comments on the last two days’ posts, as I have begun to share the results of my surveys. This may be only a briefer third episode tonight, due to other circumstances: we took in two new cats yesterday and are busy reassuring them about their new home. Then this morning, the frames on my distance glasses disintegrated! However, more will follow on the surveys in the next couple of days.

For tonight, new readers join here: in my first two parts, I shared tentative evidence that the preferred Myers Briggs personality type for a minister seemed to be ENFP. However, not all the evidence points that way.

This may be due to the brevity of the survey again, but I asked a question where respondents ranked four qualities in order of preference. I asked ministers to rank them in order of strength in their ministries. I asked church members to rank them twice: first in order of preference for their imagined ‘ideal’ minister, and second for their actual minister. What were the results?

The ministers ranked ‘responsibility’ and ‘responsiveness’ equal first, ‘competence’ third and ‘charismatic personality’ fourth. 

Members of congregations did not differ significantly in the order they placed their ideal minister and their actual minister. (Are there happier relationships between clergy and churches than we sometimes imagine?) Both times they ranked ‘responsiveness’ first. ‘Responsibility’ came second in their ideal list, with ‘competence’ third, whereas those two qualities were equal second in their evaluations of their real-world minister. ‘Charismatic personality’ was ranked fourth.

As with yesterday, we are here in the field of leadership and management competencies. ‘Responsiveness’ is SP, ‘responsibility’ is SJ, ‘competence’ is NT, and ‘charismatic personality’ is NF. We might have expected on the other evidence for the NF management style to come top, but it came bottom. Why might this be?

Again, we are dealing with a necessarily abbreviated questionnaire. ‘Responsiveness’ sounds, and is, deeply pastoral. ‘Responsibility’ is important for a minister – without it, integrity collapses and there is discredit. ‘Competence’ is necessary, but is perhaps the kind of quality more often noticed when it is absent. Most of the time it is like some of the best referees in football – conspicuous by invisibility, unless there is a crisis.

But ‘charismatic personality’ can be a loaded term in our culture, for good or for ill. Many church people are understandably wary of the celebrity culture we live in, and want to see substance. Charismatic personality may sound like personality coming ahead of genuine ability. 

Moreover, some areas of the Christian Church have gone overboard on the elevation of leaders with charismatic personalities, and have then seen them fall spectacularly. It is a more than reasonable claim to say, “I am willing to sacrifice the importance of a magnetic personality in the Church for the less glamorous but more important priority of getting the job done with Christian love. If that makes things less spectacular, so be it.” We may bemoan the lack of big name preachers, but we will trade that for faithfulness, if that is the choice.

It is interesting, therefore, to compare this with the long description of ENFPs I linked to above from the Personality Page website. They are warm and enthusiastic, and can talk themselves into or out of anything. They have a broad range of talents and show great warmth in their interest in other people. However, their weaknesses include a failure to follow through on projects they start (something I mentioned yesterday), a strong need to be liked and when they ‘go wrong’ they can be manipulative, using their way with words to get what they want.

I suspect we have had such an overload of ENFPs ‘going wrong’ in the public sphere that this has made people nervous of the dark side of an ENFP’s personality. Their strengths are wonderful in pastoral ministry, but their weaknesses can be fatal. So I think I take this result in the survey as a reaction to the weaker sides of ENFP leaders. Every personality type has its weakness, but if ENFPs often end up in church leadership, then the manipulative side of the charismatic personality is what needs guarding against.

Thoughts, anyone? As always, I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below. 

…………

Finally, thanks to Allan Bevere for recognising my post three days ago on body image, self-esteem and the Gospel as one of this week’s ‘Best of the Methoblogosphere‘. I’m honoured. Allan presents a fascinating choice of blog posts from Methodism around the world every Saturday, and you will always find something worth reading that you probably wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. Well, plus my stuff. :)

Sabbatical, Day 90: Ministry And Personality Type Survey Data Part 2

Yesterday, I showed that replies to questions in the first section of the surveys showed that congregations roughly preferred a minister of Myers Briggs type ENFP. 

Various descriptions are available in books and on the Web of the personality types. Here are some of ENFP: at Personality Page, Type Logic, Similar Minds and good old Wikipedia, just to get you going. 

Before exploring more what might or might not be appealing about this personality type in Christian ministry, there were further tests in the survey about preferred personality types. In the next few days, I shall introduce you to the results from other sections, but tonight I just want to mention one of them. 

There was a question I posed to ministers which did not have an equivalent in the survey of congregational members. I asked:

From the four descriptions below, please choose the one which most closely describes your style of leadership:

I see myself as a visionary, an architect of systems or a builder. My orientation is towards a strategy that ensures the future of the church.

I am a traditionalist, a stabliser or a consolidator. My oreintation is towards a church whose activities and ministries meet certain standards.

I function as a trouble-shooter, negotiator or fire-fighter. I wan the activities and ministries of the church to reflect current needs.

I like to work as a catalyst, a spokesperson or an energiser. I want to motivate the church into greater holiness and witness.

So what was this about? The second and third of the four elements in the Myers Briggs Type Indicator can be taken together to explore a person’s likely leadership or management styles. The four statements above represent, in order from top to bottom, NT, SJ, SP and NF. Remembering that I am an INTP, I would expect to fall into the first of the four, and I do, because that statement emphasises the importance of vision and the future. If ENFP is to be verified as the ministers’ main preference, then we would expect the fourth of the statements to poll the most votes.

So did it? Yes. NT polled 26.2%, SJ and SP both gained 7.1%, but NF took 59.5%. The intuitives (N) who see the big picture more than the details who are also feelers (F), who stress harmony among people  more than logic and evidence, represent the most common leadership style among those ministers who took the survey.

Again, on its own it is just a tentative result, because a proper questionnaire would ask many more questions to refine this. However, that is two results now looking the same in the survey.

Here is a description of ENFPs at work that Jerry Gilpin took from the book ‘Introduction to Type and Teams’ by Hirsh, Hirsh and Hirsh (CPP, 2003) in his notes for the course I took at Trinity College, Bristol in February:

Lively, charismatic and encouraging, ENFPs work well when they can innovate and be creative, persuade others to take action, and stimulate positive change. They generate enthusiasm for startup activities, are tireless in pursuit of newfound interests, and anticipate the needs of people and organisations.

So, ministers – do any of you recognise yourselves as being somewhat like this? And church members, is this what you are looking for?

More generally, here is a description of an ENFP’s general characteristics (also from Jerry’s notes):

Warmly enthusiastic, and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency.

Is this what you would put in a person specification if you were looking for a new minister? (To which I’d cheekily like to add the typical examination questions, if so why? If not, what would you include?)

Finally from Jerry’s notes, some things he included about the temperament in leading for an NF manager:

Focus Growth needs of an organisation

Abilities Communicates organisational norms; make decisions by participation; had personal and insightful style

Questions asked How does that affect workers’ morale? What is most important to people? What impact does this have on values?

Beliefs People potential is the organisation’s strength; organisation should develop people’s talent

Values Autonomy; harmony; believes in co-operation

Needs Approval

Irritated at work by … impersonal treatment; criticism; lack of positive feedback

Irritates others by … Emotional and moralistic standards; creating dependencies; getting over-extended

Potential pitfalls Sweeps problems under the rug; plays favourites

Appreciates in self High energy; ability to value others

Does that sound like you or your minister? Does it seem like a description of a valuable minister who (thankfully) is not the Archangel Gabriel?

I’d love you to tell me how far these descriptions do or do not describe your ministry or your minister.

Sabbatical, Day 89: Ministry And Personality Type Survey Data

Today was the day my surveys into ministry and personality type (from the perspectives both of congregation members and ministers themselves) finished. In between going to visit two young cats whom we hope to be ours within the next day or two and continuing to look after Mark as he still recovers from scarlet fever, I have only so far done the most sketchy of analysis.

However, here are a few preliminary thoughts, and I expect to post more in the next few days. As you may have gathered, there are a number of different tools for analysing personality type. I picked the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, because it was the one I was most familiar with and it is the tool I have found most useful for my own self-understanding.

MBTI uses four different categories. Within each one, it then suggests where a respondent is on a spectrum between two ends. Because a person tends to one or the other of four different pairs, there are overall sixteen different basic personality types.

A ‘proper’ licensed Myers Briggs practitioner will administer a detailed questionnaire to those who wish to know their ‘type’. I am not a licensed practitioner, and I therefore do not have the right to use that official questionnaire, which is copyright. I simply devised a few basic questions, which I then tailored to ministers and members of churches. My questions were based more on general overall tendencies within types. Some were based on general Myers Briggs insights, some others (especially in the survey of ministers) specifically used some research about how certain types related to specific traits in leadership and management.

I should add a couple of further caveats. I did not try to distinguish between survey respondents of different Christian backgrounds. This is important, because some research based on other tests has shown there is a clear difference between leaders in the older denominations and those in the newer denominations and ‘streams’. It has confirmed what many people would have guessed anyway, namely that leaders in the Pentecostal and independent charismatic churches tend to be more extraverted than their colleagues in the more established (lower case ‘e’!) traditions. Insofar as I know, my respondents came from the older denominations. 

There are also known differences between different cultures. Americans report much more strongly as extraverts than British people do, for example. However, that is a theoretical point here, because the vast majority of those who responded were from the UK. There was a small handful of non-UK respondents, but although I don’t know the official data, they were from countries or regions that I would guess to be fairly reserved: New Zealand and South East Asia featured.

Furthermore, I did not attempt within the survey of congregation members to deduce what their own personality type was, in order to compare that with their preferred personality type for a minister. Ministers answered questions which could have given a rough indication of their own type. However, for both surveys, I only have access to aggregated results, not full individual answers. In order to have such data, I would have had to have taken out a paid account with Survey Monkey, but this would have cost me $20 per month, and I didn’t feel I could justify that expense for a simple sabbatical project. Therefore an inspection of bias from personal  perspective was not possible.

Enough waffle and qualification, I’m sure you’d like a flavour of the initial results. Tonight, I present to you the data from section 1 of both surveys. This section was based on those four elements of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. Each pair of questions corresponded to one of the four pairs, and I asked the same questions of both ministers and church members, but with this twist. I asked ministers what their own personal preference was, whereas I asked members of congregations what they preferred in a minister. 

Question 1 teased out the difference between preferences for extraverts (‘E’ in Myers Briggs) and introverts (‘I’). Extraversion versus introversion is not about loud versus quiet here: it is about where someone gains their energy. Is it from being with people, or from being on one’s own? The extravert is energised by other people but is drained by being on her own; the introvert finds energy on his own (reading, perhaps) but is drained by prolonged contact with lots of people.

Hence the question contrasted a minister who would speak to everybody, but not necessarily give much time to each person (E) with one who would speak to fewer people but give each person quality time (I).

Both ministers and church members slightly favoured E (extraverts). The ministers were split 52.2% E to 47.8% I. Members of congregations preferred E to I by a margin of 57.0% to 43.0%.

Personally, I am strongly an introvert, so I am just in the minority here, both among ministers and among what respondents in congregations preferred.

Question 2 examined the difference between those who favour intuition (‘N’) and those who prefer sensing (‘S’). This is about how people receive information. Sensers favour the five senses, intuitives work more on a sixth sense or a hunch. Sensers see the trees, intuitives see the wood. Sensers live in the present, intuitives look to the future.

The question asked people to choose between a minister who has a big vision for the future, but can make errors of detail or fact (‘N’) and one who has an eye for detail and the immediate, but is less concerned with the ‘big picture’ (‘S’). Both ministers and congregants strongly favoured N (intuitives). Ministers preferred N by a margin of 78.3% to 21.7%; church  members by 87.0% to 13.0%.

I am pleased to say that in this category, I fit the trend. I am an intuitive. I didn’t realise when I began in ministry seventeen years ago that one of the things I would end up doing was help churches discover their vision for the future. This is a classic N trait.

I wonder whether or not there is an increasing desire for intuitives, brought about by cultural change. Firstly, in an age of church decline, many churches are desperate for a vision of hope. Secondly, postmodern sensibilities have made intuition more socially acceptable than when rationality and empirical observation ruled the roost.

Question 3 looked at how we make rational judgments, and the two ends of the spectrum in Myers Briggs that explore this are called Thinking (‘T’) and Feeling (‘F’). Thinkers prefer objectivity and logic, feelers use subjective personal values. Thinkers tend to be detached observers, feelers want to be involved and personal. It is important to grasp that thinkers are not necessarily devoid of feeling, and feelers can bee as intellectual as anybody: these words should not be taken in any pejorative way.

I phrased my question in terms of choosing between a minister who prefers to be interested in people and maintaining harmony, or one who likes to test everything by logic and evidence.

Again, both ministers and church members opted overwhelmingly for the same preference: F. For ministers, the split was 69.6% versus 30.4%. For members of congregations, it was 88.0% against 12.0%.

I suspect this indicates we are still showing a preference in the historic churches for a traditional notion of the pastor. It is often a strong value in churches that we have to hold everyone together. That, too, is exacerbated by church decline: we dare not lose another person. Perhaps I am being negative and betraying my own strong T preference here, or my concern to put missional concerns higher up the agenda. However, I should admit that one thing that should be a strong witness today is a loving Christian community, and F leaders can contribute hugely to that.

Question 4 was about how someone relates to the outer world, the external environment. Here, the contrast in Myers Briggs is between Judging (‘J’) and Perceiving (‘P’). Those who prefer J tend to be decisive, planned and orderly.They like things to be under control. Ps are flexible, adaptable and spontaneous. They are more likely to go with the flow. 

My question asked people to choose between a minister who is open and flexible, getting involved in lots of things, even if that means not always finishing projects or making decisions (P) and one who is decisive, but who can tend towards inflexibility (J).

Once again, both congregants and ministers favoured the same preference by a large margin: P. It was 65.2% to 34.8% among ministers, and 65.0% to 35.0% among the members.

In my own case, I have taken the Myers Briggs Type Indicator twice, and in this section I do not exhibit a strong tendency either way. The first time I took the test, I reported as a J, the second time a P. I can easily see elements of myself in both, and it is axiomatic in Myers Briggs theory that even when we hae a strong preference for one end of a spectrum, there will still be some elements of our weaker preference. However, it is also usually assumed that you do not change your basic personality type during your life, so I take my two results as an indication of just how borderline I am in this area. I have chosen to denote myself as a P, for the following reason. When I have examined the two different possible overall personality types I could be, INTJ or INTP, I find the latter a more convincing general account of who I am. So if I am a P after all, I find myself with the majority of ministers and the majority aspiration among all worshippers.

Overall, then, for this section of the survey – and what follows is a crude simplification – the personality type exhibited by ministers and the type preferred by congregations is the same one: ENFP, in contrast to my own INTP.

When I examine other sections of the surveys, I shall see whether they confirm this finding or not. Will there be further support for the ENFP personality type? Will ministers tend to be NF leaders? Tune in over the next few days to find out.

Sabbatical, Day 79: Exile Or Revival; Ministry Patterns

After dipping into it over a couple of weeks, I’ve finally completed Patrick Whitworth‘s book ‘Prepare For Exile‘. When it first arrived in the post and I looked at the contents pages, I was disappointed. Ninety pages of history and only fifty of contemporary application: I wanted more of the latter. Further, when I read the final three chapters that concentrate on how we should prepare for exile in the western Church, I thought I was reading little I hadn’t encountered elsewhere or already concluded for myself. Many of the usual authorities are quoted: David Bosch, Walter Brueggemann, Michael Frost, and so on. 

Yet I think this is a significant book. Why?

Firstly, because the history matters. What Whitworth shows in those first ninety pages is just how fundamental the category of exile is to vibrant faith. Not only does he establish it as a much more critical theme of Scripture than we generally acknowledge, he shows from centuries of church history how it is often people and movements who have been forced into a posture of exile that have brought renewal to the church and society.

Secondly, because Whitworth writes as an Anglican. My guess is that being the Established Church has made it harder for the Church of England to come to terms with the thought that the Christian Church is going into exile in this country. For someone like him to write persuasively about a stance of exile is important.

Thirdly, because Whitworth seems to be writing as a charismatic, where one might expect him instead to write a book called ‘Prepare For Revival‘. However, revival gets scant mention in the book. I think its first mention comes only on page 134, where it is admitted as a possibility but Whitworth expects something different:

But if the historical process identified in the central section of the book still has some way to run (although arguably it could be overturned by an extraordinary Christian revival), which I believe it has, the process of secularization may well continue apace.

I don’t want to make it sound like the desire for revival is unworthy. At its best, it is a longing for a society suffused with the Gospel. However, in some charismatic circles, it has degenerated into something else. It is the cavalry coming over the hill to rescue the poor beleaguered church. Worse, it is the fantasy we indulge to prevent us thinking about painful reality.

…………

Next in my reading project for the rest of the sabbatical is to look at some of the stuff on ministry. Not the ministry and personality type stuff yet, for two reasons: firstly, the survey for ministers doesn’t finish until the 30th, and secondly, Waterstone’s still haven’t got my copy of Leslie Francis‘ ‘Faith and Psychology‘ that I need to accompany my thinking. It’s still out of stock at the publisher’s.

At this point, I want to look at whether traditional doctrines of ministry are fit for purpose in a world where, in Whitworth’s expression, we have to prepare for exile. That is, a world where the church needs to be missional. A diverse culture that calls for varied Fresh Expressions as well as some continuing forms of traditional church. That is, the ‘mixed economy’ church of which Rowan Williams has spoken.

In this world, emerging church and missional church thinkers have criticised our inherited understandings of ministry. They say that ordination to a ministry of word, sacrament and pastoral care might make sense if we lived in a true Christendom where all were believers and the task of the church were to call people back to a faith from which they were lapsed, but it is not our situation. So writers like Frost and Hirsch in ‘The Shaping Of Things To Come‘ call for churches (not necessarily individuals, note) to express the fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4: apostolic, prophetic and evangelistic as well as pastoral and teaching.

I want to examine the strength of this critique. If it is valid (my gut feeling is that in some form it probably is), then what does it mean for those of us in the historic churches? To do this, I see the need to look at three key areas.

Firstly, New Testament understandings of ministry and leadership as a foundation. However, that is not necessarily simple. Is there one pattern of New Testament leadership? Many think not. You can pick the ‘fivefold pattern’ out of Ephesians, and you can pick ‘bishops and deacons’ from Philippians. Which (if any) do you choose, and why?

Secondly, I need to look at the tradition. In my case, that means Methodism, with its official stance and varying views – some of it difficult to pin down, because our approach is rather pragmatic.

Thirdly, it means looking again at the missional literature and practice. Neil Cole‘s ‘Organic Church‘ and (when it arrives from Amazon) ‘Organic Leadership‘ come highly recommended, and I’ll be tackling them on top of my already wide reading in the emerging and missional area.

Obviously, this is going to occupy me beyond the sabbatical, and I’m going to want to read other things that interest me too! In the long term, this could well be the core of the PhD dream.

Starting out with a book from the first of these phases means that today I’ve begun to tackle ‘Stewards, Prophets, Keepers of the Word: Leadership in the Early Church‘ by Ritva H Williams. It’s not simply an aggregation of texts: she says in the Introduction she is going to argue that the early church took some of the social conventions about leadership and subverted them for their own purposes. If that is the case, then we might have an interesting foundation for creative approaches to Christian leadership and ministry in our culture. It could make the case for Methodist pragmatism being extended beyond what we say we have ‘received’, which is sometimes treated in a rather fixed way, despite our pragmatism.

All this talk about ministry could be so introspective, and that would fit my nature as an introvert (but then we’re back to the Myers Briggs stuff again!). However, I want to offer something to the church, not simply clarify my own thinking. If all I do is sort out my own thoughts, I’m still left with tensions and frustrations with the institution.

 

Sabbatical, Day 63: My Half-Empty Glass

With the school holidays kicking in today, Debbie has been planning all sorts of activities for our pair. Swimming, sleepovers, an Easter party and a trip to London (because Rebekah wants to see ‘the Queen’s house’) all feature.

Last night, she suggested I research the Wat Tyler Country Park on the web, with a view to visiting it today. Like Joshua and Caleb’s colleagues who reported on the existence of fearsome giants in the Promised Land, I told her after some surfing that by all means let’s go, but be prepared for a possible short trip, because our children were too young for much of what was mentioned on the website. What would a motorboat museum mean to them? A scuplture trail? Somewhere else I saw mention of bird hides – again, not something they would be ready for: how would they stay quiet and still? I didn’t mind trying it and admitted that the train sounded good, but I was pessimistic.

And this is where Debbie and I are so different. I have the kind of personality that looks for the problems. I figure you have to be ready for them before you leap in. Debbie, though, is a ‘can do’ person. She ploughs into something and worries about obstacles if and when she encounters them. When I foresee trouble, she hears that as me not wanting to get on with the task, and it frustrates her. It then frustrates me that she thinks I’m trying to find excuses! It happened yesterday when we were clearing out the garage. She kept giving me more things to cram in the car for the trip to the dump. I was worrying how I’d get them all in a small car safely; she saw no issue with just for once driving with restricted mirror vision.

It’s hard for each of us to cope with the other’s different approach at times. Each of us has to compromise and show an appreciation of the other’s strengths and concerns. It doesn’t come naturally, but it’s something to work on.

Such differences aren’t limited to married couples, they occur everywhere that human beings have to work together, churches included. We are under some illusion if we think it was all rosy in the apostolic Church, for example. Arguments over provision for widows, the place of the Gentiles, whether John Mark should get a second chance at mission, whether Paul should heed a prophecy about imprisonment – all these conflicts appear in the Acts of the Apostles. We need a lot of grace.

What happened in the end today? Setting out while there were still clouds in the sky, gradually God Photoshopped them out and revealed blue heavens. It was one of those beautiful Spring days that foretold the coming summer. We weren’t short on things for the children to do, because there were plenty of things at the park not mentioned on the website. Adventure playgrounds, craft shops, an ice cream kiosk. And the train was free today, because they were testing it before the summer season starts properly. The RSPB might well have hides on the marshes, but they also had activities for younger children. Our two decorated egg cups, and Rebekah was disappointed we didn’t have time for her to have her face painted as a princess.

Because we ended up spending so much time there. The motorboat museum can wait. And next time, I’d like to carry my camera bag there, as well as our picnic in my rucksack.

Sabbatical, Day 47: How Could I Forget My Daughter?

Pressed for time in blog writing last night, I made an unwise choice. Yes, I enjoyed writing about the bozos in the High Street, but how could I overlook the achievements of our wonderful daughter?

Yesterday was a terrific day for her. We saw her take the lead when her class led school assembly, sharing on a trip they’d had to Braintree Museum to explore Victorian life a couple of weeks ago. All the class said something, but Rebekah had to kick it off. Clear voice, good projection, nicely paced. Could  make a preacher of her yet.

Later in the assembly, the Deputy Head presented her with a certificate to mark the Maths test she passed last week. She looked so proud, in the right way. At the autumn term parents’ evening, her teacher had told us that Maths was her weakness. No longer, it seems. Not only did she pass this test, we had the spring term parents’ evening on Tuesday night, and she is attaining standards in numeracy ahead of her age now. So there has been a real turnaround. She has worked hard, and the teacher has done well with her.

Meanwhiles, Mark, according to his teacher, ‘can do everything’, and she’s having to hold him back on his reading because he’s so far ahead of the others. On its own, this would have worried us, but she discussed strategies with us for making a bit more of the books they’re expecting him to read that they know are below his capabilities. The real concern is his lack of socialising with children of his own age. 

Collecting the children from school yesterday, we were greeted with a very red Mark. Not only his hair, but blotches on his skin. We kept him off his swimming lesson. This morning, he was much better and we sent him in. However, by morning break the school had phoned me and I went in armed with Piriton. That did little, and at the beginning of lunchtime came the second phone call. We brought him home, and with the school anxious that he might be infectious with something like slapped cheek, Debbie took him to the doctor, where they had to wait alone in a side room before seeing a GP who wasn’t sure what it was, but said just to keep him off school tomorrow. Poor lad, ever since going full time at school in January, he’s struggled to do a full week any week.

Meanwhile, back at yesterday afternoon, Rebekah was fit for her swimming lesson. Once a term, the swim school tests the children. Yesterday, she passed her 20 metres badge, so great elation and more reason to eat chocolate!

Today, she is happy too, because another milk tooth fell out, thanks to a cherry cake that was served for dessert at school dinners. It has been irritating her for days. Tonight, it was not difficult to persuade her to sleep, because she is anticipating a nocturnal appointment with the Tooth Fairy. And in the tradition of a children’s book we once read about the dental sprite, she is sincerely hoping this tooth was clean and sparkling enough to find a home in The Hall Of Perfect Teeth. Our next door neighbour told her there would be an extra reward for such teeth.

Fat chance. The standard £1 coin is in the envelope with the TF’s letter. We’re not getting stung again.

Meanwhile on the sabbatical front, I still haven’t ordered any more books, but having a Myers Briggs personality type that likes to keep my options open, it was fatal today to receive a catalogue for church leaders from Wesley Owen. As I flicked through, hoping not to be tempted and take it on an early trip to the paper recycling sack, I was accosted by a few titles that could have something to do with my research. Not the ministry and personality type stuff, but the dialogue between traditional understandings of ordination and our contemporary missional context. 

So step forward Ministry By The Book by Derek Tidball. Prepare for Exile: A New Spirituality and Mission for the Church by Patrick Whitworth sounded interesting. And Evaluating Fresh Expressions:explorations in emerging church: Emerging Theological and Practical Models edited by Martyn Percy and Louise Nelstrop sounded like it might be useful as a critical voice from outside my tradition to ask hard questions about new forms of church. If anyone reading this has read any of these books, please let me know what you think in the comments below.

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