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. 🙂


  1. A thought about the survey technique. I remember a question that was something about whether I, as the minister, try to talk to everyone for a brief period of time during tea after the service or whether I prefer to have a deep conversation with a few people. I chose the former option, recognising that it was extrovert behaviour and that I’m introvert. That was because, in that particular context (tea after a service) I don’t actually think it’s right to only talk to a few people. Whereas, I will not rush from pastoral visit to pastoral visit but prefer to spend good, quality time with people. The answer depends on the context. So I do think that the brevity of the questions may have had an effect. Hard to tell which ones, though!


    1. I think that’s entirely fair, Pam, and expresses some of the dilemmas I had in constructing the surveys. It was a choice between a questionnaire of manageable length that risked distortion and a thorough one that was so long no-one would complete it. I hoped that some trends would emerge through the brevity. I think your point about your contrast between talking to many people after a service but spending greater lengths with a few on pastoral visits illustrates the subtleties that a full Myers Briggs questionnaire would bring out in a person, especially as MBTI puts people on a spectrum of preferences between E and I, N and S, F and T, J and P.


  2. Dave, I understand your dilemma and agree with everything you said. Do remember that we make different choices in different contexts when you’re tempted to only see yourself as INTP! 😉


    1. Pam,

      Yes, absolutely, and I’m only able to deal at present with immediate gut reactions here. However, I think some of these findings have chimed in with some bad experiences. I need time to process things more, but if I’d delayed publishing the survey results I probably would never have done so! I hope I can integrate some of the thoughts and findings in due course.


  3. First of all, I really appreciate that you posted on this matter. I am a worship leader and an eNFp (low extrovert, low perceiving; so can easily be an iNFj). I search frequently for literature with wisdom regarding ENFPs and ministry or ENFPs and worship leaders. Secondly, when you use the word “minister” are you referring to all staff members working at the church? Or are you referring solely to the senior pastor? The way the article is written, it seems as though you are speaking of the latter. Thirdly, do you know of anyone who may be publishing, or thinking of publishing, a book/article on MBTI and how it fits with ministry? I’ve read “Soul Types” (by Hirsh & Kise) and “Personality Type and Religious Leadership” (by Oswald & Kroeger).

    Again, thank you for posting!


    1. Hi Bethany,

      Thanks for your comment and welcome here. By ‘minister’ I simply mean someone who is formally ordained. Your question, by talking about ‘all staff members working at the church’ versus ‘senior pastor’ seems to assume churches with multiple staff. That is not my experience. I tend in one sense to be ‘senior pastor’ but perhaps more accurately ‘sole pastor’ in my context. (Not that I deny the pastoral work of church members!) As for further reading, I don’t know the Hirsh and Kise book you mention, but I have read Oswald and Kroeger, albeit after I did this research. Since then, Adam S McHugh’s book ‘Introverts in the Church’ has come out, and although it is not simply about leadership a fair part of it is. I would also recommend a ‘secular’ book, ‘The Introverted Leader’ by Jennifer Kahnweiler.


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