Extending the Reach of an Alban Classic. We are well aware that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is not a new idea and that people have been gaining insights into how type and ministry interact for many years. One of the reasons for that is the 1988 Alban book by Roy Oswald and Otto Kroeger, Personality Type and Religious Leadership. Over the years it has sold tens of thousands of copies and proven useful to many in preparation for ministry and beyond. In response to requests and to help it continue to reach those who will benefit from it, we have made it available in e-book format. And of course it is still available in print as well. In the excerpt below, the authors make the case to pastors for becoming aware of their personality type and how it affects their ministry. We will continue to make published Alban books available in e-book format. Which would you like to see converted? Let us know.
The Case for Becoming a Type Watcher
by Roy M. Oswald and Otto Kroeger
We have found that our ministry to people has been greatly enhanced by learning about personality types. We think your effectiveness with people will be enhanced if you do the same. Let us count the ways.
1. Self understanding. A strong case can be made for the idea that effective ministry happens when we begin to make good use of our personhood. Because maintaining personal integrity within the choices and challenges of ministry is often difficult, greater self-understanding is essential to growth in ministry.
You start by being introduced to the four letters of your personality type (E/I, S/N, T/F, J/P). Then, as you become more curious about the implications of your particular combination of letters, you begin to delve deeper. Eventually, you’ll become hooked by the insights that begin to emerge as you acknowledge and deeply accept the type that you are. There is genius within each of the types as well as potential liabilities. Radical self-acceptance, we hope, is the first step in the process.
We have watched some people complete this survey with great skepticism, and then later be stunned by reading their profile. Some people have even broken into tears while reading their profile. In their heart of hearts they thought they were weird and that no one understood them. Then they read a profile that simply and clearly spells out the implications of their type.
Of course, type should never be an excuse. We do run into people who claim, “That’s the way I am, you simply have to accept me.” Others can use type to lay a trip on someone else. Naturally, when you are working with something as useful as these types, there will be abuses. Evil seems to find its way into anything that captures people’s imagination.
Rather than being an excuse for status quo behavior, knowledge of type can help you to understand why some tasks are de-energizing for you. With this insight, you can then either compensate for time spent in this activity or you can ask for assistance. Effective clergy often delegate to others tasks that require that they use their least developed functions.
Learning how to care for yourself in the face of a demanding role that tends to burn out its professionals is another byproduct of deeper type understanding. Each of the 16 types develops and handles stress differently. It’s important to know where you get hooked into overextending yourself. NFs naturally pick up on the pain around them and it’s hard for them to say no to cries for help. SJs have difficulty saying no to the “shoulds” and “oughts” of the pastoral role. SPs can’t turn their back on crises that break loose in the parish or community. Judging types stress themselves by trying to get the parish organized while Perceiving types become overwhelmed by routine demands of the parish or by the strictures of the pastoral role.
As Roy has learned in research on clergy stress and burn-out, self care begins with heightened self-awareness.
2. Different strokes for different folks. Growing out of great self-awareness is the insight that parishioners come in all types and temperaments. To presume that parishioners have the same spiritual/ psychological needs that you have is to make a basic error. We make the same mistake parents often make. We try to change our “children” into our type. Parishioners don’t want us to change them into who we are. They need a pastor who understands and appreciates them for who they are.
When we know what makes an opposite type tick, we are well on the way to being a good pastor to that person. We are able to bring understanding and empathy to our opposite types rather than continual irritation and rebuke. Working with church leaders becomes a much easier task. For example, if your key lay leader is an ISTJ and you are an ENFP, communication may not be easy because you are extreme opposites. Yet you can capitalize on her being grounded in specifics, her desire for procedural order, her matter-of-fact way of approaching emotional issues. Many times you will find her detached and withdrawn. When you become enthusiastic about creative ways to solve parish problems, she will irritate you by pushing you for a detailed plan. Yet in this and many other ways, you can praise God for the creative tension she brings to your working relationship, rather than praying that she resign soon so you can get a more compatible type in that role.
Some congregations consciously build into their main service more silence for their Introverts or brief theological explanations for their Thinking types. Or they may add an informal evening worship service with lots of old favorite hymns for their Extraverted Feeling types.
3. Mobi lizing church volunteers. Not only do different folks need different strokes but they need different types of opportunities to serve their church. Making sure members are well suited for their volunteer role is a task successful churches take seriously. This task is easier when people are clear about what it is they “really would like to do in the church.” Most need a little guidance and can be helped by talking about what motivates them.
Extraverted Feelers will make better greeters than Introverted Thinkers. The opposite will be true for those working on your finance committee. When you understand a member’s four letters you are in a much better position to perceive and understand why their volunteer role makes them more cranky than joyful—or why they simply love it. Also, lay leader bum-out is far less likely to occur when members are using motivated skills. The Church practices good stewardship when it uses well the volunteer energies of its members.
4. Spiritual guidance that’s empowering. In the MBTI workshops we have conducted we have noticed this common theme. When we divide the participants into type groups and ask them to share with each other which spiritual disciplines work for them and which have never worked for them, the similarity within the group is astounding—and very affirming. Many felt it was a commentary on their spirituality that they could rarely find meaning in certain forms of prayer.
5. Becoming a student of type. We return to this basic belief: you will be a much more skillful pastor if you take the time and energy to learn the categories of type. There will be some surprises as you administer the survey to people you know well, but you will learn so much more about them.
We have found that in trying to explain their scores to others, we teach others what we need to learn. A kind of primal energy motivates us to learn more about the identifiable ways different people respond to life.
Comments welcome on the Alban Roundtable Blog
Excerpted and adapted from Personality Type and Religious Leadership by Roy M. Oswald and Otto Kroeger, copyright © 1998 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.
Personality Type and Religious Leadership
by Roy M. Oswald and Otto Kroeger
Combining pastoral and behavioral science expertise, the authors spell out ways type and temperament theory illuminate the clergy role. Learn how to use the sixteen Myers-Briggs personality types to recognize and affirm your gifts, work with your liabilities, and understand and accept those with whom you minister.
Among books that link spirituality and personality type, few address ways type can be used in a congregation, and none of them covers as many areas as this work. As Coordinator of Religious Issues, Association for Psychological Type, the author explores ways that church leaders may work more effectively with type; enhance teamwork in their congregations; and assist people in finding satisfying ministries and developing their spiritual lives.
From Urban T. Holmes’s spiritual typology and her own experience as a spiritual director and pastoral counselor, Ware provides a framework for people to name and understand their spiritual experience—in much the same way the Myers-Briggs typology provides a framework for understanding personality types. Readers explore four spiritual types—head, heart, mystic, and Kingdom—and exercises allow individuals and groups to assess their type.
Managing Polarities in Congregations: Eight Keys for Thriving Communities
by Roy M. Oswald and Barry Johnson
A polarity is a pair of truths that need each other over time. When an argument is about two poles of a polarity, both sides are right and need each other to experience the whole truth. This phenomenon has been recognized and written about for centuries in philosophy and religion, and the research is clear: leaders and organizations that manage polarities well outperform those who don’t .
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