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.


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.


  1. Do remember that everything you do isn’t defined by your personality type. I doubt that you do everything introverted, everything intuitive, everything thinking, everything perceiving. We all do different things in different ways. Logic may be a dominant trait but I’m sure you’re capable of being enthusiastic, committed, dependable and a person of integrity, etc.

    Now what it is that makes me suspicious of ‘enthusiastic’ churches? My fear is that I won’t be allowed to think for myself or be myself. That I’ll be told it’s wrong to think that or wrong to react in a particular way. People who are both extremely extrovert and extremely enthusiastic often seem to be to be genuinely and sincerely incapable of understanding that anyone would see the world differently from them. (I.e. they don’t brush aside other people’s concerns on purpose, but it’s like telling them the grass is red.) I think that organisations can somehow get an ‘extroverted enthusiastic group-think’ going even if only a minority of individuals actually possess these traits themselves. So, I’m afraid of being told things like ‘If you were a real Christian, you wouldn’t have that chronic illness.’ Maybe that’s unfair but, hey, it’s a fear!


    1. Pam,


      Re paragraph 1: Oh sure, it’s an issue of spectrum rather than absolutes.

      Re paragraph 2: Yes, this is where ESFPs or others go wrong, just as I talked about the dangers of ENFPs going wrong in the ‘charismatic personality’ area with manipulation, that I mentioned in the previous post.

      Sorry for a short reply, you deserve more, but I’m in the middle of a few things. If I get a chance later, I’ll flesh this out.


  2. Dave this was fascinating, and I would clearly identify imagination as a primary gift of mine, this is certainly used in the arena of Mind Body Soul outreach, but I fear that traditional church often does not know what to do with it.

    The problem then for folk like me in minisrty is to find an outlet or a space for that imagination to flourish in helpful ways. I am reflecting on my own reaction to the last of the taught modules on the MA ( now completed praise God), it had set questions and I felt constrained by them, I notice this reaction too in some areas of church life. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is a tension I need to learn to balance.

    I would be interested in your thoughts on how ENFP’s might communicate vision successfully to a congregation!


    1. Oh boy, Sally, you’re turning me into an expert on this and I’m not! 🙂 I think my gut feeling would be to link this with something else that I guess falls into the broad area of psychometric testing, and that would be Peter Honey‘s Learning Styles Questionnaire. According to this, people are various degrees of four different styles of learning: theorist, reflector, activist and pragmatist. It’s important not only to know how I learn, but how others do, too. Hence in local church life there is something to be said for presenting things in a variety of styles, not just according to my own preferences but taking account of differences.

      So, for example, the other week I had a service with a lot of visuals but different ones communicated to different people. Some loved the videos where an actor mimed to a Bible passage. Those who didn’t appreciate that enjoyed the meditations where Scriptures were read against a series of photos, with some Celtic-style background music. Similarly, we had varying responses to using Tom Wright’s Living Faith DVD teaching course last autumn.

      But those are just a couple of my recent examples: you know this, I’m sure. Look for a variety of ways to present. In terms of your own gifts, I only know what I see on your blog, but I would have thought your photography and your imaginative prose would have been places to start. You could come up with something oblique, a story rather than a proposition, as a way of engaging those who also appreciate the use of the imagination. I think the old novelist’s maxim of ‘Show, don’t tell’ might be useful.

      Having said that, I’m intrigued by your language that you need to communicate vision successfully to a congregation. I may be reading more into those words than you intend, but it sounds a tad individualistic. I presume you would really want to engage the congregation in a journey through which you discern vision?? If so, you’re into a process that can’t rush, but the advantage is that it gives you time to deploy different approaches.

      I don’t know whether that helps; I hope it does.


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