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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Personality Profiling and the Church

My denomination seems to have gone mad in the area of personality profiling. Most young ministers I know are running around 'casting' DISC and Myers-Briggs profiles like horoscopes. In fact, I think some may even be suffering from profile-addiction!

I have always been skeptical of the benefit of these tests. They seem to be overtly subjective, and prone to giving the kind of results a profilee of average intelligence and above would want them to give. I have had church leaders rattle off their "gifts" after completing a profile, as though they had just been the recipient of a theophany.

"I am a leader," quipped a collegue recently, "with a minor gift of prophecy".

"How do you know?" I replied.

"My 'spiritual gifts' profile told me so" said he.

Recently, wanting to put the process to the test, I undertook a DISC profile for myself. I was determined to answer the questions honestly and not just in a way that would give the result that I wanted ("Gifted and Humble Leader, Destined for Greatness"). After I had completed it I sent it off to be 'interpreted'.

When, a few days later, I received the report I was shocked. The detailed response actually quite accurately reflected my strengths and, to my disapointment, my weaknesses. Unfortunately the section titled " Gifted and Humble Leader, Destined for Greatness" seemed to be missing from my report.

While I am still insistent that personality profiles are not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to ministry, I am willing to concede that perhaps there is a (small) benefit to be had in using them to help us understand ourselves and improve in those areas of our lives that are wanting.

What do you think?

7 comments:

"Grendel" said...

I reckon you were spot on with your initial assessment. Try the same exercise having a horoscope cast and you'll also see something come back that profiles your strengths and weaknesses.

These tools have some limited value for people who have never really spent time in introspection about their own foibles, but for many (and including yourself by the sound of it) they merely reconfirm what you have already discovered as a 'thinking' person.

The Creature said...

Yep - or at least what my wife tells me I should have already discovered about myself! :)

Big Dave said...

I have found all these personality profiles to be helpful tools...

Always remember that tools are only any good in the hands of someone who has been trained to use them. Put a power saw in the hands of craftsmen and a job gets done. Put the same tool in the hand of a monkey and kiss your pagola goodbye.

Good personality profiles ie myer briggs and DISC are only snapshot of who you are in a particular place time and part of your life. My conduct in a work envoronment in different to how I am in my family life and so on. Certainly elements of my personality will surface in both.

The various profiles are simply tools that identify generalities in your specific personality that "may" help identify strengths and weaknesses that can be addressed by yourself. It should not be used to to define who you are ( by putting you in a Box) nor should it give you an excuse for your weakness.

An interesting perspective given to me by a senior pastor of the same denominattion regarding the DISC test. It was his belief that anyone who had certain characteristics of a personality profile should be growing in their strength in that but also in the other areas of the profile as well, if a person was growing in and to be like Jesus...the point is, that if we are serious about following Jesus we should be endeavouring to grow by the Spirit towards the perfect personality. If a profile helps so be it.

I personally have seen many people helped by personality tests just as I have seen many people helped by the many other different ways of finding out who you are... some times it has given new information to people who are generally introspective.

I also believe that a denomination would be negligent if they didn't use these tools as part of the long complex process of endorsement. This process is not just dependent on a single personality test.

Spritual Gifts survey are another dicussion for another post. Dont Get me started.

The Creature said...

Thanks for your comments Dave, not so sure I totally agree with you though.

I think too many people are too reliant upon these "tools" and they end up becoming a fallback. I know a few too many people sticking it out in roles they are totally not suited to simply because of the results of a personality profile - in these cases it ends up with incompetence and soul destruction - for the badly matched person and those that have had to suffer under their leadership.

By all means use profiling but also encourage realism and personal accountabilty. In most cases, as Grendel said, strengths and weaknesses are fairly easily assertained by the individual and the people they work closely with.

I would like to hear your perspective on spiritual gift surveys - sounds like we might be a bit closer to agreeing in that area!!! :)

Big Dave said...

You said:

"I think too many people are too reliant upon these "tools" and they end up becoming a fallback. I know a few too many people sticking it out in roles they are totally not suited to simply because of the results of a personality profile - in these cases it ends up with incompetence and soul destruction - for the badly matched person and those that have had to suffer under their leadership."

That sounds personal...

Once again these profiles and tools and should be treated as so. I once sat with a fitter and turner who showed me all the fault of his machine (his tool) and yet understood the limitations to produce beautiful work. Use the tool well and know it limitations then it is useful. Because relient on that one then you limit what is available. People will always become reliant on particular test or method or philiosphies because they choose the security of it, they are trapped by other circumstances, or they have yet to be shown a better way.

Ultimately the call of any christian leader must be based on God's call on his life. Thats sound very clear cut and reality it is not.

"By all means use profiling but also encourage realism and personal accountabilty. In most cases, as Grendel said, strengths and weaknesses are fairly easily assertained by the individual and the people they work closely with."

Sure but not always. This depends on people's honesty and the lack of dysfunction within the group.

The Creature said...

Big Dave said:

"That sounds personal..."

I don't think it is meant to be personal, rather realistic. I learnt of something I think is called the "Peter Problem" (I could have that name completely wrong). It basically says that there is a tendancy to promote people one step higher than they should be promoted - the end result, incompetance.

I don't think the point I raised in relation to personality profiling is any more personal than the "Peter Problem" or whatever it's called. It's just a fact of life.

As for your tool analogy - I think the tool has to be a good tool in the first place. A master builder can use cheap 2-Buck Shop rubbish and end up with a crappy result, it really rests on the science behind the tool - and in the case of personality profiles, the science is inherently subjective - not objective.

It's pretty easy to deliberately answer questions in a way that will give you the results you want - and I think the same danger is still there, even when the questions are answered as objectively as possible.

So, while I am not saying don't use 'em, I am saying use them advisedly and as a (small) part of a wider program of development and accountability.

Anonymous said...

There is a serious problem with any Christian positioning themselves in this arena and expecting God to produce a holy result.

The Humanmetrics Jung Typology tests represent an area scripture specifically warns against. Paul reminds us that “...the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Corinthians 1:25 NKJV

Although Jung was a theoretical psychologist and practicing clinician for most of his life, much of his life's work was spent exploring other realms: Eastern vs. Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, sociology, as well as literature and the arts. This eclectic source of data contradicts all that Christ portrays even though it is a portion of His creation. Our Bibles give much better counsel.

The main issue, however is that God wants us to change into the likeness of His Son “...till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ..." Ephesians 4:13 NKJV

This humanistic profiling will give erroneous direction even if it is occasionally correct, but limits any person's growth by a mental stasis that God detests. He wants us to change and receive our direction from Him - to His Glory, not Jung's

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