Earlier this week I had the honor and pleasure of conducting a special MBTI workshop for the Exponential Church team. Their dynamic leader and Senior Pastor-to-be, Christian Gaffney and his wife Stephanie went through my MBTI workshop at Fair Oaks Church back in August and thought it would be a great tool for this newly forming church planting team to have as they get to learn each other’s communication and work styles.
MBTI and personality “Type” awareness can be of great value in understanding team dynamics, why we and others behave a certain way, give us a greater appreciation for each other’s differences and helps us leverage those differences as an advantage rather than causing friction when we don’t understand them.
It’s always fun for me to work with intact teams and to do a “group” MBTI analysis based on what this team’s function is. The theory behind group-typing is that when an intact work group are working together on something, they tend to take on the characteristics of their group type, despite what their individual types are – they adapt to the group dynamic and culture and tend to gain energy, collect information, make decisions and interact with the world (when acting as a group) in a way that reflects the group type rather than their own.
Determining the group type is rather simple. It’s just a matter of adding up the number of Es or Is, Ss or Ns, etc. and calculating which preferences have higher representation. It’s always fascinating to me when I have a group that, when all is added up, they end up with a group type that not one individual in that group actually has that type, but yet when they are together, they take on those characteristics.
In 2008, I did a group MBTI for a Board of Directors for a national association and, although not one of the individuals has this particular combination of preferences, the group type was an ENTJ. Now, for Board of Directors, you couldn’t have asked for or manufactured a better group type. ENTJs are known as “Life’s Natural Leaders.” And since the Board had been through a lot of transition recently and many of the members were new, it was very empowering and comforting for them to feel like they has a leg up on the work that was ahead of them top lead the organization through change.
It doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve had plenty of groups whose group-type was counter-intuitive to the kind of work they do in that team. That does not mean they won’t be successful, it simply means that have to approach success differently and often be more deliberate and intentional about things that, for another group-type, might have come naturally. Sometimes that can be better – the stretch factor: doing things outside your preference areas that cause you to grow muscles in areas that may have otherwise been neglected. There is as much risk in having a “perfect” group type for the work at hand - when everyone is too easily in their comfort-zone, some muscles never get the opportunity to stretch and begin to atrophy… right up to that moment when you need them most and then boy-oh-boy do they hurt the next day.
As I began to do the group type for the Exponential Church team, it was very exciting to identify the group as an ENFP (even though only one individual was an ENFP). Why so exciting? If I were to pick any of the sixteen types to lead the great undertaking of a church plant, I would have chosen the ENFP. Why? ENFPs are energetic, dynamic visionaries that are charismatic magnets of people seeking a direction. They are catalysts for change and inspire others to follow them.
David Keirsey, author of Please Understand Me and father of the personality Temperament theory described the ENFP this way:
You are a warm, inspirational, enthusiastic idealist with diverse interests. You tend to be inventive, innovative, ingenious and imaginative as you turn your creative attention to facilitating people. You are a truth-seeker, authentic, and self-disclosing. You are a collector of people focusing on leading, supporting and encouraging their personal growth.
Sandra Krebs Hirsh, author of Looking at Type and Spirituality described them like this:
ENFPs tend to be enthusiastic, inspiring and charismatic initiators of change who value exploring future possibilities for people’s growth and development. Resourceful, energetic and perceptive, ENFPs often anticipate what people will want in the future. They enjoy variety, newness and flexibility – the spark that ignites the fire” type. Just reading that, couldn’t you see yourself following that group?
Personally, I work for an ENFP CEO so I know firsthand the great inspirational leadership potential that lies within the ENFP when they are at their best. When I think about how that vision and enthusiasm will be serving the cause of Christ, reaching out to the lost and leading people to salvation, well it’s like being in the front car of the roller coaster at the top of the first hill. As you come to the top, all you see is sky, no tracks ahead of you for a moment until the car starts to tilt down but you don’t roll screaming down yet- not yet. In the first car there’s this delay – a hang-time where you stare at the track below as the weight of the cars behind you keep you from plummeting down just yet. Then you feel it – enough of the weight has shifted and the speed is about to hit you like a cyclone. FREEZE THERE - that moment. Your heart is beating, there’s a lump in your throat and you can hardly contain the scream that you know is coming when the purpose of this journey is actually realized when the cars will go screaming down the track. That’s what ENFP leadership feels like.
Spend just a half an hour with the 8 amazing people that are a part of Exponential Church planting team (Christian Gaffney, Stephanie Gaffney, Mike Zizolfo, Brenda Zizolfo, Lucas Johnson, Amber Johnson, Rob Martin and Kat Martin) when they are together and you’ll feel it. That kind of enthusiasm is contagious and the people in Port St. Lucy will want to be a part of it… but not just because of their ENFP style, but these people have an amazing heart for God and have laid down their own purposes for His. They follow with surrender and conviction and there is no doubt that God will use them for His Glory. I look forward to seeing their amazing impact on the kingdom of God in the months and years to come.