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.


  1. Glad the sabbatical went well. You may know this…. but don’t try to ‘hit the ground running’…denies what it was all about. I’m 7 months back in and I’m glad I didn’t….

    nb: bet the blog enties get shorter though….


    1. Graham,

      Thanks, and good to hear from you. While I have some initial catch-up meetings with my stewards, I won’t be able to come back at full pelt, because I shall only have been back nine days when I’m admitted to hospital for minor surgery with two weeks’ recuperation!

      And yes, the blog entries will have to be shorter!


  2. Interesting blog. As an INFJ who has worked hard at developing the ESTP, I find it valuable to look at these indicators as markers for where we have developed and where we are underdeveloped. To be Christly is to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us to sanctification that seems to me to be fully human in all dimensions shown in the MBTI.
    I tend to use the Enneagram as a more useful tool. It is actually based on a Christian understanding of sin, redemption and sanctification. I encourage folks to check that out and see how Christ is inviting them to grow, rather than focusing on where we seem to find ourselves. Blessings on your sabbatical and return.


    1. Ralph,

      Thanks for the comment and welcome here. I’ve heard plenty of good things about the Enneagram (as well as some scare stories), not least from my sister, who has commented here on occasion (see comments from ‘Lizfm’). In the end, I used MBTI for my research because I already knew something about it and because I had found it helpful for my own self-understanding. I have heard people say that Enneagram is good for looking at the question of personal growth, though.


    2. An interesting read indeed; as one who generally comes out as mildly ESTP I find all this fascinating, particularly your comment Ralph about developing the “shadow” characteristics, with which I’d identify. In a previous Circuit staff (of 5) we had a team building day based around our Myres-Briggs results and the (committed Christian) trainer who led us commented “I’d wondered if you’d all come out with what are considered similar typical ministerial/pastoral profiles, but you haven’t – and you’re all different! The next few years are either going to be terrible or – if you learn to value one another – it could be great”. We did learn to value each other and as we walked through some tricky times and difficult situations, one thing that was very clear was the whole staff supported and valued one another which was a very good thing indeed. There’s some further interesting reflection on the subject in this article:-


      1. David, thanks for your comment. I note John Meunier uses Oswald and Kroeger’s book: someone kindly gave that to me a few years after I did this research. (I knew about it at the time, but the price was prohibitive.) It’s a fascinating read.


  3. Dave,

    If you ever fancied a dip into Enneagram, then Michael Hampson has done some very interesting work in that area.

    I went to a day long workshop he ran, and it was very good. He’s an ex- Baptist Pastor (I think), who left to do new development work on extending the Enneagram model, and he is very keen to not let people hide behind the “this is who I am, so I can’t change” type attitude.

    Anyway, back to your research, I’ve found it most interesting. Not being a MBTI type person, I couldn’t remember my personality type off hand… so I looked it up… and found I was most likely a ENFP!!! Which is funny, because Rachel said to me just this week (in an unrelated conversation)… “I’d like to be a minister’s wife!”.

    Do I have any hope? Or am I just postponing the inevitable!


    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Mike. Do you know Richard Rohr’s book on the Enneagram?

      So Rachel wants to be a minister’s wife? Well, I have to tell you when a minister friend of mine started dating the woman who became his wife, her (almost) first words were, “The Lord has called me to be a minister’s wife”! So watch out! 🙂 Of course there were all those conversations years ago about you being a missionary …

      I think you know what to do about seeking guidance, so I won’t launch into that one. Great to hear from you again. Hope you are well and that parenthood is proving good.


  4. The other thought I had which links to a comment someone left you on a previous day, was how this fits with the “5 fold ministry roles”. I’d love to see some research on what personality types tend to fulfil each of those roles.

    I know St Andrews Chorleywood had 5 clergy on its staff at one point, and each one was suited more to one of the five roles (they made sure they covered all the bases!), and they felt this balanced things well for them, which each person able to champion the cause & need of things that other roles might neglect. Of course most churches don’t have the luxury of having 5 clergy on staff!

    I wonder if churches cruelly expect their Minister (or Vicar or Pastors etc etc no matter what NAME they are called), to be good at all five roles.

    BUT, I also wonder if in certain church streams/denominations, they tend towards wanting any of those roles more than some of the others. In other words… are your results actually more indicative of churches desiring a particular role/s from their clergy that is more “ENFP” than the others? Is that what our churches are seeking?

    Of course maybe the 5 fold roles don’t align with personality traits at all…. but for example, is a shift away from “intellectuals”, a shift away from wanting a “Teacher” as a minister? Would a survey like this in another time, or denomination/stream, have produced widely different results? Would a extremely conservative evangelical church want a more “intellectual” minister because of the value they place upon teaching?

    Do churches want more “Pastoral” ministers these days? Maybe they want a leader who is an “Evangelists” so they don’t have to do it themselves?

    Anyone have any thoughts?


    1. Mike,

      Some quick thoughts. I think churches take different approaches. Here are a few I’ve noticed.

      1. Some churches do expect the minister to be ‘good at everything’. I think that attitude is decreasing, but it can still be present – not necessarily individually, but sometimes as the sum of conflicting aspirations in a congregation, perhaps when seeking a new leader. There is also here the exact danger you mention, of wanting someone to do Christian ministry for them. These are churches that buy a dog and refuse to wag their own tails.

      2. Some churches are more realistic than 1 above and recognise no minister will have the gifts to fulfil every leadership rôle. When a minister with a certain set of strengths and weaknesses leaves, they seek someone who can compensate for what the departing leader was not good at. While these churches are good at accepting the limitations of their ministers, they fail to fill out the other gifts, as would be possible in some kind of team leadership model. I don’t think it even has to be one based on ‘paid staff’, as at St Andrew’s Chorleywood; the gifts may well be present in the congregation.

      3. I think there’s a real problem with those who simply follow the inherited view of the minister, based on an understanding that ordained ministry is about preaching the word to the faithful, celebrating the sacraments and exercising pastoral care. Not that any of these things should be demeaned, they are essential parts of church life, and it’s not far from the internal leadership in the NT at Philippi according to Paul’s letter to them. However, I suggest this model of ministry comes from the Christendom culture of the past, when everybody was assumed to be at least a nominal Christian who just needed to be called back to a lapsed faith. Doctrinally, several historic denominations are left with this view of ordained ministry when we are no longer in a Christendom culture, but a missionary situation in exile. Here, the fivefold ministries and/or other models become an important corrective. The trouble comes when denominations speak of having ‘received’ these ministries, which makes it sound like they are so God-given that no deviation is allowable. Then the apostles, prophets and evangelists end up pushed to the fringes, and – in a move smacking of self-fulfilling prophecy – are labelled as mavericks.


  5. My question in matters of type has to do with the willingness of folks to see the sin in their chosen method of coping with stressors. As an INFJ I have worked hard to develop the ESTP characteristics because they balance the ones I find easy. This helps me to see my sin more readily and to allow the Holy Spirit to move me into a more Christlike place. Example: NJs like me are quick to form generalizations and judgments. We need to practice careful sensory data gathering and assessment, and to suspend judgment until it is ripe. The sin of my NJ approach to life includes lack of trust in God, judgmentalism, and riding rough shod over others in an effort to control events to make them fit my intuitive judgments of how they should be. By practicing disciplines to address the SP, I am more tempered and amenable to trusting God amidst the seeming disorder of life. Similarly, IFs have some sins usually associated with a belief that they are special and above the ordinary, so that they focus on a spiritual life that is not all that grounded in the full human reality. This is often ego-centric and expresses a false notion of freedom that seems to lack responsibility. ET characteristics draw the IF into relationships with others and invite them to find technical solutions to life as well as emotional ones. This means a shift to more other-centered (and Christ centered) life in which emotions are not given trump card position. The enneagram works in a similar way. Blessings


    1. Ralph,

      I think that’s a really important insight, and takes MBTI further than I’ve heard it expounded before. I’ve heard MBTI referenced as a tool for working on your weaknesses, but never before have I heard it connected to characteristic sins of different personality types. I’m grateful for you airing it here.


  6. I am a minister and an INTP and I found this while researching a better vocation for my personality. I don’t know how you are doing but I don’t find many churches appreciating the type of leadership an INTP can offer.


    1. Matt,

      Welcome here and thanks for the comment. I’m sorry if you’re having a tough time. That in essence was why I did this research as part of a sabbatical. I have moved appointments since then, but certainly I did not fit in a lot of ways in the appointment I was in at the time. I discovered (when it was too late) a hidden bias towards extraversion in what many of the people wanted, and the research was an attempt to deal with the strains this caused. To discover from my questionnaire just how low down INTP was rated by ministers and congregations underlined the pain.

      I don’t know what tradition or denomination you’re in, but in the Methodist Church here in the UK the ‘Chair of District’ (somewhat like a bishop) is a key person in finding new appointments for ministers. I talked extensively with mine about what I’d been through, and to cut a long story short the result was the place I’m now in, where I’m much more accepted and my gifts are far more highly welcomed. Maybe there are channels like that open to you?


  7. It should never be that a particular personality type is elevated over others, but whether the person is allowing the Holy Spirit to complete that person in the image of Christ. I am an INFJ, but I find God encouraging me to practice the patience and humility of the P, the logic of the T and the careful attention to detail of the S. I hope that this is moving me along the way of holiness by grace.
    I also recommend the use of the enneagram, a personality system that is based on recognizing one’s favorite sins (usually associated with the personality aspects of which we are most proud) and the invitation of God to move against them toward greater wholeness and holiness.
    Blessings to you all.


    1. Ralph,

      I entirely agree with you that no personality type should be elevated. There are strengths and weaknesses to all of them. The shame is that they are, at least as far as some congregations and cultures are concerned.

      That said, I like your idea of using MBTI to reflect on your sins. Provided it’s that, and not an attempt to compensate for gifts you don’t have, I think that’s creative and constructive.


  8. I’m an INTP pastor / Priest. The key is build strong relationships of trust with gifted extrovert leaders in the church. Very important to leverage your natural strengths. Extroverted leaders need reflective, intuitive perceivers who can see the big picture and keep things on track. Peace – A


  9. 16 Shades of Love! 

    Has anyone noticed that we represent the 16 sides of GOD’s Love in; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? 

    1. Long Suffering – ISFJ 
    2. Kind – ISFP
    3. Envieth Not – ESTP
    4. Vaunteth Not Itself – ISTP 
    5. Not Puffed Up – INTP
    6. Doesn’t Behave Itself Unseemly – ISTJ
    7. Seeketh Not Her Own – ENFJ
    8. Not Easily Provoked – ESFP
    9. Thinketh No Evil – INTJ
    10. Rejoiceth Not In Iniquity – INFJ
    11. Rejoiceth In The Truth – ENTP
    12. Beareth All Things – ESFJ
    13. Believeth All Things – ENFP
    14. Hopeth All Things – INFP
    15. Endureth All Things – ESTJ
    16. Never Faileth – ENTJ 

     Had to go KJV for the poetic feel, 🙂 lol… baring in mind though I feel we only truly resonate these qualities at full wack when we’re closer to GOD, through the Holy Spirit…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great Read, As a INTP pastor, it was interesting to see another INTP pastor’s prospective. Thanks for your blog post


  11. Thank you for your insight, I too am a INTP who is called and pursuing ministry your thoughts on the subject are encouraging to me!


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