Gareth Garland is a PhD researcher at York St. John and a Baptist Union of Great Britain Accredited Minister.
A piece of research I have been involved in with Professor Andrew Village builds on a long-standing research tradition exploring the personality of religious ministers by examining type preferences among a sample of Baptist ministers in the UK. Psychological type theory offers insight into individual differences and aid our understanding of preferences for different forms of religious expression (Butler, 1999).
Applying type theory can enable ministers to gain better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses in relation to expectations when ministering in churches (Francis, Craig, et al., 2007). Type theory, as suggested by Carl Jung (1971) and later developed by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers (Myers & Myers, 1980), assumes personality is the product of binary preferences related to orientation (introversion (I) or extraversion (E)), perceiving (sensing (S) or intuition (N)), judging (thinking (T) or feeling(F)), and attitude (judging (J) or perceiving (P)) (Myers & McCaulley, 1985). Accordingly, preferences in each component combine to produce 16 possible psychological types, which are associated with particular personality characteristics.
Temperament theory uses the same four components, combining them in a different way to produce four temperaments which have been named the Apollonian, Promethean, Dionysian, and Epimethean (Keirsey & Bates, 1978). Temperament theory also suggests different personality characteristics are associated with particular temperaments and offers a parallel means to the 16 types to explore the characteristics of religious ministers (Francis & Holmes, 2011; Francis et al., 2016; Francis & Village, 2012).
Over the course of this research, data were collected as part of the Accredited Ministry and You survey (2019). The survey was made available to clergy, and a total of 295 ministers responded, representing approximately 21% of active accredited ministers across the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB). Of these, 82% were male and 18% female; 31% were less than 50 years old, 34% in their 50s, 29% in their 60s, and 7% in their 70s; 63% were ordained and 65% were in accredited ministry. Psychological type preferences were assessed using the Francis Psychological Type Scales (FPTS).
introversion (I) extraversion (E) sensing (S) intuition (N) thinking (T) feeling(F) judging (J) perceiving (P)
The type preferences reflected in the distribution of the 16 types among the Baptist ministers, included the following: For men, the most frequent types were ISTJ (17%), ISFJ (16%), INTJ (11%), and INFJ (9%). For women, the most frequent types were ISFJ (20%), ISTJ (15%), ENFP (12%) and ESFJ (12%). The distribution showed some difference from the UK population in general. Male Baptist ministers show significantly higher proportions of ISFJ, INFJ, INTJ, and ENFJ, and lower proportions of ISTP, ESTP, and ESFP. There were similar trends for female ministers, but the low sample size made statistical testing less certain. Compared to Anglican clergymen, the male Baptist ministers showed higher frequencies of ISTJ, ISFJ, and lower frequencies of INFP, but other distributions were similar. For women, the only statistically significant difference was the higher proportion of ISTJ among the Baptists than among the Anglicans.
The information on Psychological types and temperaments, whilst it is interesting in and of itself, is useful information to know and understand. This research could help to inform future decisions by ministers and churches, with regards to understanding themselves better and how to be better equipped to face the challenge of ministering and being church locally. These differences help to highlight the distinctiveness of the kind of leadership and pastoral care that these Baptist ministers may be best suited to offer.
For example, the tendency towards introversion over extraversion is greater amongst Baptist ministers than in the general population. It is possible that introverts might find some aspects of ministry draining and this might foster lower wellbeing if they cannot also find time to be energised in more solitary activity.
A second example is, the strong preference for judging, rather than perceiving, that Baptist ministers favour in dealings with the outer world, places them at odds with the UK population as a whole. Whilst this might be a strength when organising church activities, by virtue of the fact that tasks are conducted in an orderly way, this may be unattractive to the majority of the population who exhibit a preference for perceiving tendencies as opposed to judging tendencies. Something similar could be said about the most frequent temperament among the Baptist ministers being Epimethean (SJ), described by Keirsey (2021) as ‘Guardians’. This temperament describes those who revere the past and who are committed to tradition, order, and structure. However, there is here the risk that if this temperament is dominant, it could leave the general population regarding Church as being out-dated and / or irrelevant.
Overall, this research has indicated that Baptist ministers show some distinct differences in psychological type and temperament from the general population. The samples are relatively small, and it would be good to repeat this study with a larger sample of ministers (especially women). Nevertheless, the data should lead Baptists to ask: What can be learned by studying the psychological types and temperaments of those who minister and worship in their local churches?
Francis, L. J., Craig, C. L., Whinney, M., Tilley, D., & Slater, P. (2007). Psychological typology of Anglican clergy in England: Diversity, strengths, and weaknesses in ministry. International Journal of Practical Theology, 11(2), 266-284.
Jung, C. G. (1971) Psychological types: The collected works (Vol. 6). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Myers, I. B., McCaulley, M. H., Quenk, N. L., & Hammer, A. L. (1998). MBTI manual: A guide to the development and use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (3rd ed.). Consulting Psychologists Press.
Myers, I. B., & McCaulley, M. H. (1985). Manual: A guide to the development and use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Consulting Psychologists Press.
Keirsey, D., & Bates, M. (1978). Please understand me (3rd ed.). Prometheus Nemesis.
Francis, L., & Holmes, P. (2011). Ordained Local Ministers: The same Anglican orders, but different psychological temperaments? Rural Theology, 9(2), 151-160.
Francis, L. J., Powell, R., & Village, A. (2016). Psychological temperament and religious orientation: An empirical enquiry among Australian church leadership in P. Hughes (ed.), Charting the Faith of Australians (pp. 111-165). Christian Research Association.
Francis, L. J., & Village, A. (2012). The psychological temperament of Anglican clergy in Ordained Local Ministry (OLM): The conserving, serving pastor? Journal of Empirical Theology, 25(1), 57-76.