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.
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.
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. 🙂
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
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.
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.