Diagnostic personality tools like the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator and the DiSC Assessment introduced me to myself. As I read the descriptions of the INTJ and the “high C,” I felt understood. That is me!
Going further, to realize that the introverted, thinking type of person is not inherently a bad, flawed type, was like the door of a birdcage opening for a parakeet who’d never flown beyond the bars. It was liberation. You mean, I no longer have to apologize for my unique personality wiring? I could hardly believe it.
Now, let’s be clear. Personality types are like colors. In themselves, they are varied, beautiful and are to be appreciated for their uniqueness and how they contribute to the painting. Yet because of the indwelling sin nature in every human, there is a dark side to each type. I shouldn’t excuse my sin on my personality or defend a lack of love on the letters of my Myers-Briggs.
Furthermore, personality is not a measure of morality. It helps us understand in objective terms why we respond to the world the way we do.
- I prefer alone time because…
- I can see the big picture because…
- I process the world more intellectually than emotionally because…
- I am more scheduled than spontaneous because…
While the Myers-Briggs and the DiSC have been helpful for me understanding myself, It has taken the Enneagram to get below the surface of my behavior tendencies to the level of motivation and deep desire. If you are not familiar with the Enneagram… Who am I kidding? Of course, you are. But if–just if–you are part of the 1% (no, not that 1%) who hasn’t obsessed over the test yet, you need to take it to find out your number (including your “wing,” which helps provide nuance to your type). I think you’ll find it not only accurate, but insightful for self-awareness, understanding relational dynamics in a marriage/home/workplace, and for how to understand the kind of pastor your congregation should expect you to be (and the kind they should not expect you to be).
This article by Suzane Stabile in Christianity Today applies the Enneagram to pastoral ministry. I found her analysis to be spot on. It certainly nails me (as a 5).
As the wife of a long-time pastor, she writes, “My husband, Joe, is a pastor. In other words, he is teacher, public speaker, counselor, children’s storyteller, youth leader, HR director, master of ceremonies, facilities coordinator, volunteer coordinator, mission trip coordinator, hospital chaplain, creative designer, office equipment technician, mediator, fundraiser, finance officer, funeral director, father, and grandfather. Does he excel at every one of those tasks? How could anyone? He thrives in some parts of the ministry, and in other areas, he merely gets by.”
For many of us, that is too true. We merely get by. I can relate to that is so many ways.
But I am convinced that God did not design me to just get by but to contribute by his enabling grace in a significant way to the advance of the kingdom as a pastor. What the Enneagram says is that my contribution will focus on one of the nine areas outlined below. When a pastor and a congregation both embrace this area of focus as the pastor’s unique wiring (and aim to staff in other areas), good things are on the horizon for the church.
Here is a summary of how Suzanne Stabile describes the nine types of pastors using the Enneagram as a guide.
- Enneagram 1 represents the “perfect” pastor. Not that the pastor is perfect, but that he wants to be and strives to be. He is deeply committed to his calling and holds himself to a very high (if not impossible) standard. He also expects others to meet the same standard. Translation: he may easily burn out and burn out others. He will need to allow himself a double dose of grace… and give it to others.
- Enneagram 2 represents the “generous” pastor. Not necessarily generous with money (although he probably is), but with personal care. He thrives on being wanted and is more than eager to give of himself whenever anyone needs help. What he lacks in administrative gifts he makes up for in relational warmth. The downside is that sometimes he gives too much and begins to resent those whom he serves.
- Enneagram 3 represents the “high performance” pastor. This leader is “known for being enterprising, motivating your parishioners to help execute whatever plan you may have for your church.” This pastor sets ambitious goals, measures metrics, and achieves new mile markers for the church through his enthusiasm and relentless energy. His downside is that in the personal drive to achieve, he can mistake people for machines.
- Enneagram 4 represents the “empathetic” pastor who is sensitive to the brokenness of sinners and values being authentic and vulnerable. Often emotive, this leader loves story and liturgy, while not always being as concerned with doctrinal precision.
- Enneagram 5 represents the “well-studied” pastor. Speaking to this type of pastor, Stabile says, “You have a limited amount of energy for personal encounters, so you spend most of your day in your study and schedule your days to allow for study and sermon preparation.” This pastor will struggle with the relational demands of a pastoral role, sometimes comes across as emotionally detached, and will need to consider how to incorporate people-time into his ministry.
- Enneagram 6 represents the “reliable” pastor who is acutely aware of the fears and anxieties in the congregation. In response, this pastor aims at creating an environment of safety in structure and group activities. At the same time, he can over program events to the neglect of opportunities for human connection at the heart level.
- Enneagram 7 represents the “popular” pastor, to whom Sabile says, “You like the variety and spontaneity of ministry. You relate well to all ages, and you’re probably popular with most of the parishioners. If it doesn’t require too much preparation time, you really enjoy preaching and leading worship.” This pastor is challenged with time management, scheduling, and facing unpleasant conversations that need pastoral leadership.
- Enneagram 8 represents the “visionary” pastor. This determined and passionate leader is gifted at mobilizing a congregation with a contagious zeal. However, ambition can lead to an unintentional using of the congregation versus loving them. They become numbers rather than humans.
- Enneagram 9 represents the “peace-loving” pastor who is able to see both sides of every controversy, navigating with calm and balance to lead a church to greater unity. While he loves consensus, this leader may take longer to make decisions and be uncertain about the path ahead.
If nine types are too many, you may be interested in this article that breaks the types down into just three, prophet, priest, and king.
What is your Enneagram number? Does the description fit? What would you add or change?
Are you a church looking for a new lead pastor? How does this analysis of the different types help with your search?