In my last appointment, an ecumenical church I served ran a ‘Week of Accompanied Prayer‘. I missed out somehow, and was jealous of the members who clearly had a wonderful spiritual experience. So when our Catholic friends here in Knaphill offered to put one on in the village, I was an enthusiastic supporter. It started today. It’s like a mini-retreat without going away, where you have the benefit of low-key spiritual direction in your prayer life from a ‘prayer guide’ each day.
We began with a simple service and got to meet our prayer guides this afternoon. I was invited to choose a Bible passage to pray on this evening before I meet my prayer guide for the first formal session tomorrow morning. I chose Isaiah 43:1-5 from the selection offered. It made me think of an old song by Andy Piercy and Dave Clifton, from the same CD as contained their more famous ‘Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow’. I can’t find a video online of them singing this, so here is someone’s cover version of ‘Precious In Your Eyes’:
As for other reflections on the passage itself, I had thought I would just read it pietistically, but I can’t deny the ‘theological’ side of me. So I brought into my reflections the fact that this comes from the section of Isaiah that is directed to them in exile in Babylon, when the prophet tells them that God will bring them home. They are precious in God’s eyes despite their sin. God does not give up on his people. That is something for all God’s people – me included – to cherish.
I’ll see how tomorrow goes. One thing I’m looking forward to is this: I mentioned to my prayer guide today that I find it hard to enter for myself into the kinds of prayer where I am expected to imagine what my five senses tell me. I can lead those sessions for others, but they don’t work for me, and I think it’s because in Myers Briggs terms I’m an ‘N’ – an Intuitive. I am a ‘sixth sense’ person who sees the big picture, not an ‘S’ – a Sensory person who uses the ‘five senses’ and concentrates on fine detail. Yet I enjoy photography, which as Jerry Gilpin pointed out to me on my last sabbatical, is definitely an ‘S’ practice. On quiet days in the past I have been known to take my camera gear out and about, and use it to meditate on creation. My prayer guide mentioned something about knowing a retired Anglican priest who may have some material on using photography this way, so we’ll see.
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.
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.
What was I going to do with the Amazon vouchers and money given me for my birthday? I soon had some ideas. It doesn’t take me long, the problem is shortening the long list.
There are some books I still need to purchase for sabbatical reading. Not only do I have to pare down this list for financial reasons, I have to recognise the limits of what I shall actually get through during the remaining two months. Some have been recommended or are obvious picks, but if anyone has any thoughts on these books or others in the same field, please leave a comment.
Ministry and Leadership, Ancient and Modern
Ritva H Williams, Stewards, Prophets, Keepers of the Word: Leadership in the Early Church
(Both of these were among the books recommended to me last week by Jerry Gilpin.)
Faith and Technology
Quentin J Schultze, Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age
And if boks feature large in my ideal spending, so too do CDs. Yes, I’m old enough still to want CDs, not simply MP3s. Actually, it’s the old hi-fii snob in me. I’m waiting for the day when the children are old enough for me to risk replacing the loudspeakers they damaged a few years ago. MP3s are great for convenience and flexibility, but the fidelity of sound is poor.
I’m eyeing up replacing some of the Little Feat vinyl I used to have, regretting the fact that the 4 CD compilation Hotcakes And Outtakes was less than £20 on Amazon recently, but when I went back to buy it, back it went to £43.
There are some new or imminent releases that catch my eye, too. I’m a fan of the UK-based American singer Jeb Loy Nichols, who combines country, funk and reggae amongst other influences. He has a new release called Parish Bar and Andy Gill in The Independent said it was his best release ever.
Or there are the ever-wonderful Buddy and Julie Miller, whose new recording Written In Chalk comes out on Monday. Julie Miller had the distinction of somehow continuing to write painfully honest songs in the CCM world, touching on child abuse and all sorts of things. Buddy is an extraordinary guitarist, singer and songwriter, famous for playing with Emmylou Harris and others. I was recently playing his 2004 release Universal United House Of Prayer to bits.
I only know I can’t buy everything I want! I’ve been totting up prices on Amazon, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, HMV, Play and PlayTrade. Then, in the case of books, I’ve conducted a further comparison at Bookbrain. Once I’ve totted up the cheapest prices, I then have to make the hard decisions. But being a ‘P‘ type in Myers Briggs, I like to keep my options open as long as possible!
Tomorrow holds the CT scan on my sinuses, following the investigation I reported on 19th January. I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow, although I won’t know the results and likely treatment (surgery?) until an appointment on the 30th.
Sabbatical, Day 30: Victorian Children, Books Books Books, Personality Type Survey And New Blog Theme
Mark stayed home today as a precaution. We don’t want the symptoms of his ear infection to disappear while the bug remains around and then recurs. So he came on the school run to take Rebekah in, then we went to see her board a coach with her friends to visit a museum in Braintree for a Victorian-themed outing.
All Rebekah’s year had to dress like Victorians (as did the staff and parent helpers). There were additional restrictions on what they could take in their lunch boxes. Becky was nervous, knowing that part of the day would include a simulation of a Victorian school, complete with strict teacher! However, she survived, and although her own real-life teacher has a reputation at the school for keeping rather firm boundaries, Becky came back believing her teacher isn’t strict at all in comparison!
Those of you who are my Facebook friends can see on my profile a photo I took of her this morning in her £10 bargain eBay costume. You’ll also see there (and here on the blog) a changed profile picture. All the children on the trip were given a slateboard and stylus. Rebekah drew a picture of me, I photographed it and cropped it. So if you’re wondering what happened, that’s the story. Besides, she took the previous photo that appeared here and on Facebook on her own digital camera. I like to think she’s a very artistic little five-year-old.
Keeping Mark at home gave us the opportunity to stretch him. Academically he coasts at school, and the reading books sent home for him are well beneath his literacy powers. He devours books like a shark eating human flesh, and so we keep ourselves stocked up with titles at or just above his ability level. Not only do we find Internet bargains, his favourite shop is Waterstone’s and he is well known to the staff at the local library. This morning, he read me ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker‘, stumbling only on the words ‘midnight’, ‘sewed’ and ‘hammered’.
Even with all this going on, I actually managed to do some sabbatical work today. Having done the work on ministry and personality type last Thursday and Friday at Trinity with Jerry Gilpin, I began devising a questionnaire today. I want to survey ministers and members of congregations about the personality types of ministers, and what level of tension might exist between actual personality types and the aspirations of churches. It won’t be the most scientific survey ever constructed, because I won’t have the facility to question an accurate cross-section. Respondents will inevitably be self-selecting to a certain extent, and that may well mean I attract answers from people who have stronger than average views. However, within those constraints, I hope I can learn to some extent whether the tensions I feel are substantially replicated elsewhere or not.
As to distribution of the survey, I plan to host it on Survey Monkey, and possibly distribute it using Mail Chimp. Both these services have free options for those working small scale. I’ll find other ways of distributing the link to the survey through Methodist sources, Facebook and, naturally, here on the blog.
Finally, I was fiddling around in WordPress earlier and noticed that two weeks ago they had launched another new blog theme, Vigilance. It looks quite clean and is apparently customisable, so I think I might change over to that and then see what modifications I fancy making over the coming weeks. Let me know what you think of it.
I met George Kovoor outside his office at 7:45 am for breakfast. One moment we were heading to a student common room to eat, the next we were going out for a fry-up at Asda. It was an exhilarating meeting. He told me about the impact of the context-based training at Trinity, where groups of students are based with a church long term. One congregation has grown from forty to a hundred and ninety in two years.
I heard too about the recovery of morale at a college that had slipped into the doldrums in recent years, and the exciting recovery. Certainly, there is a buzz around the place, and no-one had a bad word to say to me about George and his leadership.
I had wondered why he was so keen to meet with me. He is keen to make use of alumni to promote the work of the college. I told him the amazing story of how God provided the money for me to study there. I’ve told it briefly once or twice on the blog. I don’t have time to do so now, as I’m typing this late at night. However, George would like me to recap it for the college mailshot. If I do PhD research, he is keen for me to do it through Trinity and knows exactly which tutor would be right as a supervisor.
We covered other things too that are best kept private, much as they excited me. I could get him into trouble, and that’s the last thing I’d want to do for a visionary leader in God’s Church.
George is such a vastly different person from me, one of the few people I have met of whom the description ‘larger than life’ is worthy. Yet he is sensitive to people of other dispositions. Meeting with him has been an exhilarating experience, and that is why I have written about him for three consecutive days.
Final lectures followed this morning. Jerry Gilpin introduced us to the work of Meredith Belbin. I’d heard people speak of Belbin Team Rôles, but not done anything on it myself. Potentially very useful in putting together teams or diagnosing problems within them, if a little tricky to expect everyone to complete a questionnaire first!
Drove home this afternoon, giving a lift to a distance learning student who lives in east London.
Glad to see the family, but time to sign off now for the night. More tomorrow, I hope.
George Kovoor is mad. It’s the title of a Facebook group, and it’s true. I discovered the group last night when the man himself sent me a friend request and it was on his profile. He is a member.
As I thought, I wasn’t able to set up an appointment with him today, as he requested yesterday. When I was here in the 1980s, you needed to ask the Principal’s secretary two weeks in advance if you wanted to see George Carey. So when I went to see the current secretary, sure enough there was no window when both GK and I were free.
However, she made a suggestion. Why not reserve a seat next to him at lunch? The staff and students here all have yellow chits they place on tables to reserve seats in the dining room. She tore up a piece of yellow paper, wrote my name on it and told me where George sits. I went and marked the seat next to him.
It was duly a crazy conversation. Just I am very clearly an introvert, so George is as clear an extravert as you are likely to meet. He conducted simultaneous conversations with about five of us. I referred yesterday to how he has a collection of projects all in addition to being Principal here. He referred to my bookmarking of Butler and Butler‘s fairtrade clergy shirts, and it transpires he has an involvement in the marketing of clergy attire himself.
During the meal, George asked for a bottle of tabasco sauce. We expected him to use it on his chicken and spicy rice. No. He drank it directly from the bottle. Tonight, I have learned from some of the students that it is his favourite party trick, especially in front of men. However, it has given the students an idea for something when they hold a ‘superheroes day’ here in a fortnight to support Comic Relief. Pastoral confidentiality does of course mean that I cannot reveal their plans on a public blog.
At the end of lunch, he said he was sad we couldn’t match our diaries but was still keen to meet. So I’m having breakfast with him at 7:45 am tomorrow, when he gets into college.
On a calmer note, the course today has been just what I wanted when I booked it last year. I’ve taken very few notes, but so much has fallen into place. Without turning it into the psychological equivalent of a horoscope reading, my personality profile under Myers Briggs makes so much sense of my strengths and weaknesses in ministry and in other relationships. Jerry Gilpin who is teaching the course is another former Trinity student. He was in the year above me. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to catch up over coffee tomorrow. Already he’s given me some recommended reading on personality type and ministry. So far it includes Faith and Psychology by Leslie Francis, Growing Spiritually with the Myers-Briggs Model by Julia McGuinness, In the Grip by Naomi L Quenk, and he’s going to check on the title of a book by William Bridges.
I’ll sign off soon. I need to pack stuff ready for leaving here tomorrow lunchtime. Lectures start at 9:15 and I have to vacate the room by 10. I need just my morning stuff and laptop bag ready to go.
There won’t be chapel worship tomorrow morning, because the students will be worshipping in their pastoral groups. So I have worshipped together with the community for the last time. And I wanted to say this. Whatever nit-picking comments I’ve made about services this week (and that’s my personality type, too!), I have so far failed to mention the extraordinary sense of devotion and commitment to Christ that surrounds you like a magnetic field in the worship. I’m struggling for a way to express this gracefully and without sounding condemning of others, but I have missed being in a community like that. I believe that when you are in a group of Christians like that, then iron sharpens iron. Others lift the level of your discipleship. Sometimes they don’t know they’re doing it, but they do. I wonder how much of this energy gets dissipated when people leave.
I don’t know whether it’s as unrealistic to reproduce this in the local church as it is to bring back to a congregation the ‘spiritual high’ some people experience at conferences. I’m tempted to think there is a difference here, though, because this is an ongoing, day by day, week by week community, not an annual gathering of thousands. Am I crazy to have lofty ambitions for the local church? I always have been a (failed) idealist in that cause. One of my tutors at my Methodist college, David Dunn Wilson, picked up on my tendency in this direction and told me to remember that the Church is a company of sinners. Eugene Peterson has a similar tone in his book The Jesus Way, in which he stresses the importance of forgiveness from the example of King David’s life. I agree with both of them up to a point, but Christians are more than forgiven sinners. It’s something the Methodist tradition knew in its infancy with John Wesley‘s call to ‘scriptural holiness’. Somewhere I still believe that a community of forgiven sinners also needs deep intentional aspirations to holiness.
Or am I barking?