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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.

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About Dave Faulkner

I'm a British Methodist minister, married with two children. I blog from a moderate evangelical-missional-charismatic perspective, with an interest in the 'missional' approach. My interests include Web 2.0, digital photography, contemporary music and watching football (Tottenham Hotspur) and cricket.

Posted on April 30, 2009, in ministry, Personal and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’m a ‘feeler’ and I also am concerned with mission.

    The good thing about ‘thinkers’ is that, at your best, you can point out the truth is the truth, no matter how one feels about it. It is true, for instance, that our Christian hope is based on a solid foundation, no matter whether a person is feeling that solid foundation or not. That’s good news!

    I’ve also experienced the negative side of thinkers. ‘I’m right and you’re wrong and that’s it; you don’t have a legitimate point of view, you are wrong.’ I’m not saying you do that, but just pointing out the negative side.

    I think, though, that your intuition about feelers is somewhat correct. We can slip into co-dependent behaviour very easily because we find it hard not to try to make everything all better for people all the time. We need to watch our own ‘need to be needed’ which can also be destructive.

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  2. I’m babbling. The connection with ‘mission’ is that if we run around trying to make everything better for everyone all the time, we don’t have the time (or the energy in the case of us introverts!) for mission. Then the minister risks becoming a personal chaplain to everyone in the congregation. And, of course, congregations like this a lot and people do try to push ministers into the chaplaincy role!

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  3. Dave Faulkner

    I don’t think you’re babbling, Pam! Of course as a thinker I see the idea that the truth is the truth no matter how someone is feeling as good news, just as you describe. My danger is in not presenting it as good news, but with a tone of hardness. As a thinker, I don’t mind the cut and thrust of an academic debate, but I know it would hurt others and I don’t always remember that. For me, it’s about the pursuit of truth, but for others it’s threatening. I suppose I also know I don’t have all the truth myself and when I see another thinker posturing as if he or she does, then inwardly I laugh and like to provoke the debate even more – to the consternation of others.

    I’m aware that as a thinker I need feelers on the team, who will notice pastoral needs before I do. I just have to remain healthy and build their insights into my priorities as a minister, neither rejecting them because their approach is alien to mine nor being pushed into being someone I’m not. That isn’t always easy, but it has to be done.

    I’m babbling now!

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  1. Pingback: Sabbatical, Day 91: ENFPs Come A Cropper « Big Circumstance

  2. Pingback: Ministry And Personality Type Surveys: Starting To Draw Some Threads Together « Big Circumstance

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