Let Workers’ Ministry Fit Their Natural Personality Traits

Let Workers’ Ministry Fit Their Natural Personality Traits

 

Volunteers serve for different reasons besides their common desire to glorify their Lord. Simply to praise workers for what they do does not normally keep them volunteering permanently. An agreeable working atmosphere requires a different management style from what administrators normally use with paid staff members. Different incentives motivate each individual. Everyone fits one or more of five basic personality profiles, each of which has a unique motive for serving. Let us call these profiles Playful Pup, Front-runner Bull, Steady Carthorse, Keen-eyed Eagle and Zoo Blend. These animals correspond to the classic personality types, which are sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic and melancholic. Few persons fit only one type, but over time, one type will predominate in an individual. Zoo Blend exhibits all four types.

These natural bents are not spiritual gifts, but they determine how believers will use their spiritual gifts. A gifted teacher with the personality type of Playful Pup will prefer teaching large groups; a teacher with the personality of Keen-eyed Eagle prefers strategic coaching in the background. Let us look carefully at each of these animal types, noting their motives, strengths, weaknesses, anchors that tie them to a task, and common weaknesses.

1.  Playful Pup (Sanguine)

Motive

Playful Pup loves to give attention to people and receive attention. He keeps working as long as he likes his coworkers and coworkers like him. Work is play.

Strength

Playful Puppies can recruit for a project and promote it. Playful Puppies’ spiritual gifts might include evangelism and mercy. Assume that a group plans an informal event to attract unsaved friends and talk about Jesus in a non-judgmental way. Paul Pup is eager to contact those people, and talks spontaneously with them.

Weakness

Playful Pup, if not sensitive to God’s leading, lets others influence him easily and lead him into other, less edifying pursuits. He might neglect long-range goals and vision statements. So you must help him to harness his spontaneity to the Spirit’s fruit of faithfulness, to persevere in doing Christ’s will and overlook any gruffness of his coworkers.

Danger

Playful Pup drives away fellow volunteers if he uses his friendly nature to manipulate them into following a hidden agenda, such as recruiting them into an organization or selling life insurance.

Anchor

To keep Playful Pup on his job, anchor him in a crowded harbor where he can do what he loves doing, focusing on people. Do not assign him tasks that keep him for a long time from talking with people. Let him frequently participate in social events. Recognize his work frequently, and do so in public, giving him a deep sense of belonging. Playful Pup will keep volunteering as long as he hears or gives frequent pep talks. He will keep following others’ management policies as long as he has a warm relationship with whoever enforces those policies, and as he feels good about the purpose of his work.

2.  Front-runner Bull (Choleric)

Motive

Front-runner Bull loves to lead the herd. He keeps leading as long as he has responsibility for specific projects, because he needs a challenge with clear objectives.  He seldom seeks merely to have fun.

Strength

Front-runner Bulls get their job done.  They feel they have to get it done. They are not easily discouraged and they maintain discipline. In the secular world, they make good production managers and army commanders. Their spiritual gifts might include administration and apostleship. Front-runner Bull asserts, “Alright, let’s schedule an event that will attract our unbelieving friends. Where’s a calendar?”

Weakness

Front-runner Bull sometimes bruises other volunteer workers who disagree with his policies or procedures. He confuses leadership with merely enforcing rules. He makes arbitrary policies that leave his coworkers feeling no real sense of ownership of the project. You must help Front-runner Bull harness his drive to the gentleness that is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so that he can listen to others’ views and they can work out procedures together.

Danger

Front-runner Bull stampedes other volunteers when angry, imposing rules for his own pleasure and power. He can be disdainful and rude with workers that he feels are less competent than he.

Anchor

Locate Front-runner Bull in front of the fleet, so he can do what he does best, which is to lead. He is apt to strain and drag his anchor, so give him a big one. Clarify project objectives, both short and long-term ones. Include buster in planning new projects. He might not be an expert planner but he needs to be in on planning, to confirm his delegated authority. He may need a special commissioning ceremony. Front-runner Bull will keep respecting management policies, as long as he has power to enforce them with a definite group of people. If he does not compose his own job description, then he needs to have substantial agreement with whoever does.

3.  Steady Carthorse (Phlegmatic)

Motive

Steady Carthorse loves the process of a project, and will keep pulling his load as long as he knows precisely what to do and can see steady progress, even in tiny increments. Tedious detail does not deter him.

Strength

Steady Carthorses can work out details, analyze progress, keep books and evaluate results. They will see the project through, and minor snags do not daunt them. They enjoy translating. Gifts might include teaching, knowledge, service and helps. Steady Carthorse offers, “I’ll work out a budget for our project with those needy people, and help decide what food to bring.” When they have their first meeting the weather is very bad but Steady Carthorse goes anyway, early, to make sure of last minute preparations.

Weakness

Steady Carthorse, if over-worked or out of tune with the Holy Spirit, becomes as inflexible as his cousin, Molly Mule, and resists making needed change. Help Steady Carthorse harness his steadiness to the Holy Spirit’s fruit of humility that enables him to yield and flex as other needs and circumstances arise.

Danger

Steady Carthorse slows his progress and coworkers’ progress whenever his cartwheels slip into long, deep ruts.

Anchor

Tether Steady Carthorse in an old, familiar lane. Publish his reports with its details. Let him analyze and present to others their project’s progress or lack of it. Do not startle him with sudden, new plans. Prepare him for change, ahead of time, and ask him to analyze the steps to make any changes. He appears docile but inwardly feels a deep desire to share responsibility for a project. Steady Carthorse will keep volunteering as long as managers let him see, in a measurable way, some concrete evidence of his contribution toward a goal that he values.

4.  Keen-eyed Eagle (Melancholy, in its classic meaning of contemplative)

Motive

Keen-eyed Eagles love principles. They keep soaring as long as they can see that their project is moving the right way, and that others take them seriously when they discuss the ethics and aims of long-range plans or trends.

Strength

Keen-eyed Eagles can do creative work. Let them discern the strategic value of a project, define long-range objectives, exhort, and open doors for new projects. Keen-eyed Eagles’ spiritual gifts might include discernment, exhortation and prophecy. Suppose you meet to plan an evangelistic effort. Keen-eyed Eagle urges, “Let’s make sure that our approach follows biblical norms. Let me explain them again. And let’s do this in a way that sets an effective precedent for future projects.” He will also voice a tactful rebuke for one who fails to help prepare!

Weakness

Keen-eyed Eagle can soar so high that he overlooks coworkers’ sensitivities and immediate needs. When not yielding to God he simply ‘works the principles.’ Keen-eyed Eagle sometimes rocks the boat. Gentle rocking keeps others alert, but if we pay him no attention then he may sway it violently—on principle, of course—making everyone seasick. You must help Keen-eyed Eagle harness his vision to the fruit of the Spirit self-control and kindness toward coworkers.

Danger

When Keen-eyed Eagle turns his keen sight inward, he flies the wrong way, sometimes straight down, and can lead the flock astray.

Anchor

Keen-eyed Eagle needs a very long yet firm tether. Let him do what eagles do best—create, conceptualize, contemplate and exhort. Listen as he explains how a project relates to other projects, to God’s Word and to the future. Take his warnings seriously. Give him a deep sense of ownership of a project, especially of its long-range purposes and values. He will keep volunteering as long as managers’ policies seem fair for him and for those with whom he identifies. He wants others to take his exhortations seriously, and that the organization stays on the path toward a well thought-through goal. He might not want a job description, unless the sky is the limit or he himself drafts it.

5.  Zoo Blend (A rare species)

Motive

Zoo Blend loves variety, and identifies with all the animals. Zoo Blend loves to see the organization function as a body. Zoo Blends keep working as long as they are an active part of an inner circle, with freedom to take the lead when new opportunities arise. They enjoy coordinating others, and making plans for a wide range of ministries.

Strength

Zoo Blends, who understand and appreciate all the animals with each one’s unique motives and strengths, can keep the organization running smoothly. They are catalytic, diplomatic and sympathetic. They consider the entire scope of a project, including the sensitivities of all coworkers. Gifts might be pastoral, wisdom or leadership. They often head big organizations. After a meeting with unsaved friends, Zoo Blend announces, “That was great! Let’s keep having such meetings. Playful Pup, you got our kids to mix with the visitors’ children. Can we count on you next time? Miss Carthorse, your team cleaned up without griping, laughing as they did it. Can you plan it for next time? Keen-eyed Eagle, can you work up an irresistible invitation card? Let me know if I can help. Front-runner Bull, please get the elders to approve some funds!”

Weakness

Zoo Blend’s broad interests may lure him into taking on too many jobs. Then he becomes so absorbed in running the organization that he forgets why it organized. The organization becomes institutionalized and loses touch with people outside of the institution, sometimes even with those whom it was supposed to serve. Zoo Blend may also overlook the value of volunteers who are not as skilled yet would make up for it in hard work if he gave them the chance. You must help Zoo Blend to temper his zeal with the Spirit’s fruit of patience and self-control.

Danger

Zoo Blend frustrates volunteer workers when he yokes horses with bulls, or any of the other different animals, too closely together, expecting them to do work that does not fit their natural bent.

Anchor

Plan to moor Zoo Blend in several harbors. Let him do what he does best—a bit of everything. Well, almost everything. Let him coordinate different aspects of a project without taking on too much. Keep in touch with him, because he can lose sight of long-range aims. Give him a deep sense of identity with the organization. If Zoo Blend coordinates a group or project, let God impart His anointing through a serious ceremony with the laying on of hands. Zoo Blend will keep volunteering as long as managers give him authority and responsibilities that rise to the level of his abilities and span the range of his interests. For this to happen, he also must compose his own job description, or participate substantially in composing it.

Summary

Suppose unpaid Christian workers prepare to serve needy immigrants. A wise project manager will let each personality type do what fits their personality best:

  • Keen-eyed Eagle defines the immigrant’s most basic needs, and the main objectives of the project in a brief project manual. He might also create its graphics.
  • Steady Carthorse does research for the project, adds his findings to the manual, and correct typos.
  • Front-runner Bull prods workers into action.
  • Playful Pup recruits new workers for the project, and teaches them the manual.
  • Zoo Blend coordinates everyone’s efforts.

 

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