last week, i spent some time with my seminary cohort dissecting everyone’s myer-briggs personality type. i’ve done this before, but no one has ever really taken the time to teach me what my results mean for me in ministry, so i was thankful for this time of discussion. then i wanted to know more. here’s what i’ve learned.
the myers briggs is a system of dichotomies. are you introverted or extroverted (I or E), do you focus on concrete and practical data (sensing – S) or on abstractions, concepts and theories (intuition – N), do you process information through thinking or through feeling (T or F) and do you orient your life as more structured and planned or more loose and spontaneous (judging or perceiving – J or P).
i score as an ESTP.
extroverted. sensing. thinking. perceiving. i gain my energy from people (E) and i like to structure my life very open-ended and spontaneous (P). i gather information concretely and practically (S) and i process that info logically and critically (T).
now i’m reading this book called “personality types and religious leadership”. it was written in 1988, so the facts are a bit dated and the cover looks like a Super Nintendo instruction manual, but some of the facts surrounding my type and my role as a church employee were kinda crazy to see:
– ESTP: % of clergy – 0.6%
– 38% of the US population has the combo “SP” versus only 8% of clergy population having “SP”
– Extrovert: 75% of the US vs 61% of clergy
– Sensing: 76% of the US vs 43% of clergy
– Thinking: 50% of the US vs 32% of clergy
– Perceiving: 45% of US vs 30% of clergy
awesome. literally, every facet of my personalty is more common outside of the church than inside. my immediate reaction is, “do i belong here?”, my next reaction is, “where are all my friends?”, but my eventual reaction is, “what is it about ESTPs that doesn’t jive with the church?”
no, i’m not doubting my calling because some book tells me that my personality doesn’t function well in churches. in fact, it’s refreshing to some degree. no wonder the church – and organized religion for that matter – isn’t attractive to so many people. there are a ton of personalities that simply aren’t present in church leadership and don’t know how to relate. why would a sensing thinking perceiver want to hear from an intuitive feeling judger in service every week? or maybe a better question: why would an ESTP want to sit in a pew for an hour every week AT ALL? ZZZZZZzzzzZZZzzzzz…get me some crayons or something for crying out loud.
then i read a little more in depth into my type and found this little nugget…
A major barrier to SPs becoming ordained clergy is the academic requirements. SPs have little tolerance for the abstract, theoretical, non-practical and non-functional nature of the educational system. Considering that we require an additional three years of seminary education, which is even more theoretical and impractical, we can see why so few SPs become ordained.
In fact, our entire school system beyond seventh grade conspires to increase the disinterest of the SP. In grades 1 through 6, which are characterized by learning activities from play dough to science projects, SPs have some of the highest IQ scores. By grade 7 the emphasis has shifted to theory and continues through grade 12 – then individuals can go on to college to learn even more theory! If you pursue post-graduate work, your education becomes even more abstract and detached from reality. No wonder almost every major discipline requires an internship to get people grounded in the practical world again.
The Church has bought this model hook line and sinker. It requires all ordained professionals to jump through academic hoops, then field work or internships are required to get them rooted again in the practicalities of parish life.
nailed it. i haven’t read anything more refreshing in years. this is the last 12 years of my academic life summed up in 2 paragraphs. thank God i was able to volunteer and work internships with students throughout that time period, or there’s no way i would’ve made it to where i am today.
of course, it also affirms all the fears i have of seminary in the first place. they’re right. i have little tolerance for abstract, non-practical and non-functional discussions. i don’t care about the theology behind why serving together is important for middle schoolers. i know it’s important because i have SEEN it’s effects and i’ve HEARD from students how it impacted them. don’t tell me the terms and concepts behind what just happened – that means nothing to me because it’s not REAL yet.
although, there are certainly instances – and i recognize this – where learning the theology and the concepts behind the experiences and the events is extremely instructional for me. i’m currently working on a research paper on jurgen moltmann and his book “theology of play”, and i know that when i’m finished, i will be so thankful that i understand theologically why getting together for “play” is a constructive and worth-while thing to do as a Body. right now, i know it’s a powerful asset to community, but i don’t have a clue why. i know it, because i’ve seen it, but i can’t articulate it.
and maybe that’s a better way of talking about why i’m going to seminary. so i can articulate why we do what we do in ministry. so i can know with confidence that my ministry is constructed on theology – not just constructed on what i’ve seen work in the past.
i highly recommend this book to anyone who works in a church in any capacity – staff or volunteer. a few days ago i asked my team of volunteers to take the myers-briggs and send me the results so i can learn a little more about their strengths as leaders in our ministry.