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.
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.