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Wired that Way: How Your Temperament Impacts Your Profession and Passion

By David Olshine | Director of Youth Ministry, Family and Culture at Columbia International University and is the author of Studies on the Go: Proverbs and Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians (Zondervan/Youth Specialties). | May 11 2011

Years ago, one of my seminary professors had our class take the Myers-Briggs temperament inventory. I'm glad he did.

I have found this instrument invaluable in knowing myself and working with others. The basic idea breaks our temperaments into four arenas. This tool is especially helpful in how we manage our ministries; plus, it helps us with people who operate differently than we do.

I recommend that you take the Myers-Briggs temperament inventory yourself. Until you do, here are some insights you can use.

1: Where do you focus your attention?

This part of the inventory addresses whether you're an Extrovert (E) or an Introvert (I), which determines how you engage and relate to the world around you.

When it comes to our ministries, an "E" likes variety, action and is energized by people. Connections with people are important to extraverts. The party empowers them. The "I" on the other hand likes quiet in order to get things done. The Introvert gets things done because he or she is an internal processor. Introverts usually can become great writers, musicians, poets and preachers. Extraverts will speak out loud, whereas Introverts need cave time to reflect and learn. Extraverts love the party; the party poops Introverts.

2: How do you process information?

The Sensate (S) and the Intuitive (N) take in data differently. The "S" is down-to-earth and practical. They are common sense learners and trust concrete information. The "N" focuses on possibilities and imagination and trusts inspiration.

The "S" likes established routines of doing things and dislikes new problems unless there's a system in place. "Ns" like solving new problems and wants to know why something is or isn't working. If I were to give an "N" an apple, he or she would say, "Hmm…apple pie, apple sauce, apple juice." "Ns" are dreamers and think lemons should be turned into lemonade. An "S" would stare at the apple then bite into it. The "S" lives in the moment.

3: How do you make decisions?

Are you a Feeler (F) or Thinker (T)? Feelers make choices based on personal feelings, values and issues of compassion and justice. They hate relational conflict. Thinkers base decisions on logic, analysis and objective truth.

"Ts" tend to decide, the stand firm about their choice whereas "Fs" will decide based on people's input. They go with their hearts; "Ts" decide with their heads. They can hurt Feelers with their quick words and thought processes. Feelers tend to be people-pleasers and crave harmony.

4: What is your action plan toward the world?

Are you a "P" (Perceiving) or "J" (Judging)? "Ps" will choose spontaneity when it comes to action. "Js" love schedules and methods to complete some task.

If your youth ministry wanted to build a skateboard park, the committee would need a "P" and a "J" to decide. The "P" will have super creative ideas, but if a "P" is the chair, the park might never get built. The "J" will want closure and may decide too quickly because he or she doesn't like a long, drawn-out process. "Ps" love freedom and flexibility; "Js" love organization and closure.

Implications for Ministry

What temperament do you lean toward? Everyone leans toward a particular temperament. Don't look down on someone who is different from you. Learn from that person.

Does your ministry/profession energize or deplete you based on your temperament? Some jobs naturally complement a person's temperament. For others, their jobs frustrate them because their temperament and profession clash. Does something need to change? Do you need a new job or different environment?

How does one develop the other side of his or her temperament? Hang out with people who have a different temperament. Doing so will help you in the long run when you face conflicts and help keep you balanced.

Some youth workers might be better with autonomy in their profession; others need more structure. What will you do if you are an introvert in an extraverted world? What if you have to make logical decisions daily and you are an off-the-charts feeler?

Are you alive doing what you do, or is it deadening? Your temperament can empower or debilitate you in your ministry. Take steps today that you can work in a ministry that complements your temperament style and fulfills your mission. Your temperament impacts your ministry and passion.

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