There are a lot of different personality tests and assessments out there, but one of the longest running and most renowned and recognized is the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). Here in the Central Canada District of the Wesleyan Church we have started using this important tool with ministers going through the ordination process. When I took the training and became a MBTI Certified Practitioner, I was amazed at all the ways an increased awareness of personality type, not only our own but others as well, benefited my process of preaching and the attentiveness to those I was preaching to.
I can’t stress enough how valuable having a proper MBTI assessment can be for your personal and professional development as a preacher and pastor, whether you’re new to the ministry or a seasoned veteran. If there are ever any seminars or a Certified Practitioner in your area I encourage you to seek them out, but for the sake of this brief article I want to introduce to you some of the basic identifiers from the four MBTI dichotomies in order to increase self-awareness and discernment in the life and practice of the preacher.
Extrovert / Introvert
This is probably the most well known of the four dichotomies, but it’s probably also the most misunderstood. Whenever we think of Extroverts and Introverts, most often we think of social situations, and certainly there are social dynamics involved in knowing whether you are an E or an I, but primarily this dichotomy has to do with our source of energy and process. If you are an Extrovert then on a regular basis you need one of two things (or maybe both): you either need to be around people in order to be energized or you need one, two or a few people to talk things through, work out an idea. Whether it’s a sermon series idea, a new venture or opportunity for the church, or wrestling with the text, trying to discern an application for this week’s passage, if you’re an Extrovert you know you benefit from collaborative conversations and prayer, asking questions and being asked questions about the new idea.
If you are an Introvert on the other hand, you likely enjoy spending time with people, but after awhile you feel “drained” and need to energize with some time alone. Now, of course all pastors feel this way because our work is people, but when the demand or obligation is absent, what are you like? Your tendencies on Sunday may not actually reveal your innate and natural preference. That being said, if you are an Introvert, when it comes to working through an idea, you likely need your space and time. You internally process and pray through the week’s passage and sermon, and sometimes other people’s ideas get in the way of your clarity. In either case, if you’re aware of the way God has wired you, you can be more assertive about what sort of practices are necessary for your preaching process to be more productive.
Sensing / Intuition
The second dichotomy has to do with how we take information in, whether that’s how we study a text, or how our congregation hears us on a Sunday. Often times I will simply ask this question: What kind of sermon do you prefer? Do you find it helpful to have a handout or a slideshow that guides you through the sermon point by point, making the conclusion and application clear? Or do you prefer a more open-ended sermon that simply tells the story well and allows everyone to see themselves in it? If you are a Sensing type then the former is likely what you prefer. When you take information in you trust your five senses, as well as the facts and figures. If you are an Intuitive type on the other hand, you’re more comfortable with the big picture and you’re endlessly fascinated with how this passage of Scripture connects with that one, and how similar patterns can be found in your life and the lives of those around you.
As a preacher, the important thing about this dichotomy is knowing and understanding your opposite. If you’re a Sensing preacher who only offers Sensing type information on Sundays, you may be losing those who are trying to see themselves within the bigger picture, the greater story. If you’re an Intuitive preacher who only offers Intuitive type information on Sundays, you may be losing your Sensing audience because you’re not rooting them with enough facts, details or specific examples for application. In either case, once we know how we prefer to take information in, we must learn how to include and be sensitive to the type of information people different from ourselves need and require.
Thinking / Feeling
The third dichotomy has to do with how we come to a decision, what sort of values or objectives are vital to our decision making process. The simplest way to explain this is to say that a Thinking type person tries to take a step back from the situation and make an objective decision, while a Feeling type person tries to enter into the situation and make an empathetic decision. I think in many ways this also relates to how a preacher approaches the text. When you’re reading, re-reading and studying a passage of Scripture do you naturally identify a problem or dilemma that needs to be solved? Or do you see the characters in Scripture as fully formed humans and try to relate to them and the situation they’re in? If you’re a preacher who is the Thinking type, then most often your sermons might address specific issues, topics, sins, struggles and matters of injustice. While if you’re a preacher who is the Feeling type, then most often your sermons address similar themes but you do so by fleshing out the characters and historical context, you might share very personal stories so that everyone can relate and share in a sense of solidarity. Either way, whatever your innate and natural approach to the text might be I hope one thing is clear–we need both Followers of Jesus, the body of Christ, need rational problem solvers because our ultimate aim and goal is to serve and save people.
Judging / Perceiving
Finally, our fourth dichotomy has to do with how we organize and implement the decisions we have made. When you’re planning an event or sermon, how do you go about it? If you’re the Judging type (not judgmental) then you prefer to plan ahead, make a schedule and stick to it. If you’re the Perceiving type, then you might also have a plan, but you’re not too concerned about sticking to it because you want to be sure that you’re “in the moment” and present with all people. Both Judging and Perceiving types have deadlines and reach them, they just complete their tasks in very different ways. I often joke that if you’re a preacher who is the Perceiving type, you may start the week out as a clear P, but as the week gets closer and closer to Sunday, you start to practice more J habits.
I think Sunday is where our true type might actually reveal itself. Whatever your process or schedule throughout the week might be, the question is, how do you respond to last minute changes, stresses and additions? If you don’t deal with them well then you’re likely to be a J, but the good news is that you can learn to prepare yourself and maybe even expect some uncertainties. If you’re a P type, on the other hand, maybe for the sake of those on staff or your worship team who might be J’s, and expect to know a bit more ahead of time, maybe you can spend a few hours earlier in the week making a tentative plan for Sunday. If you do, this might allow you, and everyone you’re working with, to plan for the unexpected and be a bit more at ease with any last minute changes. Often times the key thing here is communication, keeping everyone informed so that they can participate and be present in worship.
If you’re interested to know a bit more check out Episodes 16 and 17 of the Preaching Collective Podcast. You can also check out The Myers-Briggs Foundation in the United States or Psychometrics Canada. You can also contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org