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Review: Personality Type and Religious Leadership

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I recently retook a short Myers-Briggs personality test, which pegged me (so accurately, I think) as an INFJ. While I was unpacking books this past week (an aside: one of the movers said he loves watching items come of the moving truck - it is like Christmas, because people never recognize their own stuff!), I came across this book: Personality Type and Religious Leadership. I bought it at a continuing education event in Maine a few years back and forgot about it.

Since I've been thinking about personality type again a lot lately, I quickly gave this book a 'thorough skim' and found it fun and thought-provoking. The book specifically looks at clergy and how different personality types function in the ministry. The focus is really Protestant clergy, although some attention is given both to Catholic clergy and people in religious non-clergy positions.

Here's what I discovered:

- Even though INFJs (Introverted / Intuiting / Feeling / Judging) are the rarest personality types, they are the fourth most likely personality type for clergy, and the only Introverted type to be in the top five.

- Introverts, as you might expect, have a hard time dealing constantly with the people-interaction that ministry requires. I suspect that most pastors are tired by Sunday afternoons, but I've always felt seriously drained after being 'on' all of Sunday morning. I remember feeling this way too in CPE when I was in seminary - visit after visit after visit was so difficult, and though I got better at how to do it, it never really got easier to walk into rooms. Even just this week, in my office, my hand hovered over the telephone as I tried to make myself call a parishioner. I've always hated talking on the telephone. I made the call because I have to make calls! But it is still and always hard.

- Introverts come across as spiritually deep, and tend to be better about engaging in spiritual disciplines. But they have a harder time with church growth. 'Sales', as the authors put it, "is the Extravert's cup of tea more than the Introvert's." (32) Introverts also have a hard time with conflict, and find themselves triangulated frequently. I can see that in myself.

-Introverts have it easier than Extroverts in one way though - sermon preparation. "You can expect . . . depth from Introverts in their sermons, more reflective material, good exegesis of biblical texts - all delivered with an economy of words." (44)

I talked over this book with my ENFP pastor-friend, and we especially laughed over the sections on sermon preparation, which seemed quite right to us.

Hopefully I'll be back to posting more regularly, as my internet service will finally be connected tomorrow!


Rev.Dulce said…
I'm an ISTJ and the pastor of a small church. What would your book say about that?

I do relate to your exhaustion after church. I always have to come home and take a nap. I say that "It sucks the life out of me!"

My evangelism person and I always conflict because I refuse to go "knocking" on strangers door. I literally cannot force myself to do "Cold Calls".
Anonymous said…
a free resource at
funny stuff. i forget my full makeup but the introvert stuff sticks me pretty well.
Jan said…
I found this so interesting, as I am also INFJ and convinced myself I was too introverted to be a pastor! Glad you are. Thanks for all the info.
revbfw said…
I have known about the preponderance of INFJ's in ministry for a while. I didn't know we shared the same type. I could have written so many of the comments in your post.

It is interesting that in this time when a plethora of opportunities for ministry exist and we never consider how our personality types intersect with that.


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