Top 3 personality types for clergy

Roy Oswald and Otto Kroeger of the Alban Institute collected data about Myers-Briggs personality types for more than 1,300 clergy. The selection of clergy was not random, so may not be representative of the entire clergy population, but information is still interesting.

Of the 16 Myers-Briggs types, these three were the most frequent.

ENFJ (16.1%)

ENFJs are the benevolent ‘pedagogues’ of humanity. They have tremendous charisma by which many are drawn into their nurturant tutelage and/or grand schemes. Many ENFJs have tremendous power to manipulate others with their phenomenal interpersonal skills and unique salesmanship. But it’s usually not meant as manipulation — ENFJs generally believe in their dreams, and see themselves as helpers and enablers, which they usually are.

ESFJ (12.4%)

Guardians of birthdays, holidays and celebrations, ESFJs are generous entertainers. They enjoy and joyfully observe traditions and are liberal in giving, especially where custom prescribes.

All else being equal, ESFJs enjoy being in charge. They see problems clearly and delegate easily, work hard and play with zest. ESFJs, as do most SJs, bear strong allegiance to rights of seniority. They willingly provide service (which embodies life’s meaning) and expect the same from others.

ENFP (11.6%)

ENFPs are both “idea”-people and “people”-people, who see everyone and everything as part of an often bizarre cosmic whole. They want to both help (at least, their own definition of “help”) and be liked and admired by other people, on bo th an individual and a humanitarian level. They are interested in new ideas on principle, but ultimately discard most of them for one reason or another.

The two least common types are:

ISTP (0.9%)

Like their fellow SPs, ISTPs are fundamentally Performers (note the capital ‘P’ :-)), but as Ts their areas of interest tend to be mechanical rather than artistic like those of ISFPs, and unlike most ESPs they do not present an impression of constant activity. On the contrary, they lie dormant, saving their energy until a project or an adventure worthy of their time comes along–and then they launch themselves at it. The apparently frenzied state that inevitably ensues is actually much more controlled than it appears–ISTPs always seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to physical or mechanical obstacles–but the whole chain of events presents a confusing and paradoxical picture to an outsider.

ISTPs are equally difficult to understand in their need for personal space, which in turn has an impact on their relationships with others. They need to be able to “spread out”–both physically and psychologically–which generally implies encroaching to some degree on others, especially if they decide that something of someone else’s is going to become their next project.

ESTP (0.3%)

ESTPs are spontaneous, active folks. Like the other SPs, ESTPs get great satisfaction from acting on their impulses. Activities involving great power, speed, thrill and risk are attractive to the ESTP. Chronic stifling of these impulses makes the ESTP feel “dead inside.”

Gamesmanship is the calling card of the ESTP. Persons of this type have a natural drive to best the competition. Some of the most successful salespersons are ESTPs. P.T. Barnum (“Never give a sucker an even break”) illustrates the unscrupulous contingent of this type.

For more of Oswald and Kroeger’s data and discussion about MBTI and religious leadership, buy the book.

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9 thoughts on “Top 3 personality types for clergy

  1. I’m surprised there aren’t more I’s in that list of most common. Many if not most of the pastors that I know are introverts and not extroverts… although some of them, like myself straddle the border.

  2. I can’t cite references but I know that there have been studies showing that more US clergy are Extroverts than Introverts. In the UK, it’s reversed and more clergy are Introverts than Extroverts.

    I too straddle the border. Ultimately, I need to be on my own for awhile to recharge. But I enjoy people and often seek them out and I know that, in a crisis situation, I definitely want other people around me and I emphatically don’t want to be alone.

  3. The last time I took a M/B test I also straddled the E/I border, but that is because of 30+ years of pastoral ministry. Left to myself… I’d just as soon be left to myself. 🙂

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