Tuesday, March 24, 2009


In my pastor's sermon last Sunday, he spoke about four types of personalities we human beings are blessed with. Our personalities influence the way in which we go about our jobs, our family lives, and our marriages. We are apparently intended to operate differently from one another, and the difference in our wiring makes for some wonderful, complementary ways to achieve our goals together. It also makes for some really tough challenges.

If we're self-aware and intentional about acknowledging our characteristics and recognizing them as gifts, that can bring tremendous energy to a ministry, to a marriage, to our parenting experiences, or to our jobs. I think too often, however, that people are quick to overlook the different ways of being with which we all come into the world. It then becomes too easy to construe another's predispositions as inferior or wrong in some way.

Here's a little description of the four styles:
1. Task/Unstructured-Can be given general guidelines & will achieve desired results. Versatile, creative, helping wherever needed. Prefers flexibility. Goes for tangible results.
2. Task/Structured-Get the job done. Give specific instructions, lots of direction. Loves having an agenda to follow.
3. People/Unstructured-Connectional, interactive. Very spontaneous, relates well to others, tend to be flexible.
4. People/Structured-Most comfortable within defined relationships, feel secure in familiar surroundings. Projects warmth. Can get to task once they're comfortable with the team.

Put another way, task-oriented people are energized by doing things whereas people-oriented folks are more energized by their relationships. Unstructured folks organize themselves best when there are a lot of options and flexibility. Structured people tend to do best by planning and ordering their lives.

God's little joke seems to be that he always puts one of each kind in a marriage. One packs the car, fills it with gas, and drives as far as it'll go. The other uses MapQuest, AAA, and makes reservations for every motel or restaurant they're likely to encounter.

Churches run this way, too. One leader wants to organize and pre-plan every minute of a meeting, while another might devote the first fifteen minutes to checking in with one another. I have actually conducted meetings for which I've built in meditation time only to have a task/structured participant become so powerfully uncomfortable that they have asked to "move on to something productive". I wish I'd known more about these personality types back then!

It would be so rewarding if more of us were willing to accept the differences in personality the way we accept differences in, say, our ethnicities , our disabilites, or our races. But many of us can't seem to see beyond a narrow, fault-finding perception of others who are just hard-wired differently. And that's a shame-worse, it limits the richness we could be experiencing in our families, in our jobs, and in our ministries.

God didn't create us differently so we could make enemies of each other. We're created differently so we can make a more glorious human whole...in God's image.

Quote for pondering:

"If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends, you talk to your enemies. "
- Moshe Dayan
Israeli military commander and politician turned peacemaker.

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