Knowing your small church

There are a lot of pastors who lead small churches.  Most of these pastors have great desire to have God use them to grow their churches.  What is common is that only a few are able to achieve their goals of seeing a church grow.  I have been an assistant pastor of one small church that was able to grow from 12 to 90-100 in AM worship attendance.  I am currently in my 3rd year of pastoring a church that has grown from 38-50 in AM attendance.  What I have observed is that all churches are different.  For example, music was not important at my first church, but it is very important at the church I am at now.  My first church was less structured for worship service, the church I am at now is structured during worship.  These are just 2 examples that help you to see that all churches are unique.

I am a pastor that observes personalities.  I believe that God creates people with purpose and, after salvation, the Holy Spirit bestows gifts upon their natural abilities that are meant to edify the Body of Christ.  This is why God brings people into fellowship(church) with each other.  We become the Body of Christ that is used to display the Image of God to those who do not know Jesus Christ.  We are Christ in the Flesh again when we are together.  One note worthy of mention, in my mind, spiritual gifts can be rejected.  Okay, don’t bombard me with a bunch of theology.  But natural abilities are hardwired.

So, let’s look at what it means to be hardwired by God for second.  In other words, we are coming back to personalities.  I know there are several ways to look at personalities.  Jung has the typology test and if you know me, you know that I am an ENFP.  Sometimes that is good, and other times that is bad.  🙂  But I want to keep this simple by looking at Hippocrates four classifications of people, Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy, and Phlegmatic.  Yes, you guessed it, I am ENFP which means that I am a Sanguine primarily.  Sanguine people are those who are loud, like doing things the fun way, and enjoy being center of attention with a crowd around.  Choleric people want control.  They are organized, a little bossy, and powerful.  Melancholy people want to do things the right way.  They seek perfection.  While those who are Phlegmatic desire peace and calm.

Here is a better key to understanding these personalities.  Marita Littauer lists these traits in her book Wired That Way.

On page 16

Popular Sanguine

Basic Desire: Have fun.  Emotional Needs: Attention, Affection, Approval, Acceptance.  Control by: Charm.

Powerful Choleric

Basic Desire: Have Control.  Emotional Needs: Loyalty, Sense of Control, Appreciation, Credit for Work.  Controls by: Threat of Anger.

Peaceful Phlegmatic

Basic Desire: Have Peace.  Emotional Needs: Peace and Quiet, Feeling of Worth, Lack of Stress, Respect.  Controls by: Procrastination.

Perfect Melancholy

Basic Desire: Have Perfection.  Emotional Needs: Sensitivity, Support, Space, Silence.  Controls by: Threat of Moods.

Sanguine and Choleric lead, extroverted, optimistic, and outspoken.  Sanguine and Phlegmatic play, witty, easygoing, goal-oriented.  Choleric and Melancholy work, decisive, organized, goal-oriented.  Melancholy and Phlegmatic analyze, introverted, pessimistic, soft-spoken.

Now, if you are a pastor of a small church and you have a vision that does not match your people, then you need to consider understanding these personality types.  In the small church it is not too overwhelming to learn how God has hardwired your people.  For example, as a Sanguine pastor that enjoys loudness and people close by, and thinks that everyone else does too, I have learned that my Melancholy and Phlegmatic friends enjoy silence and space.  Now consider if you have a congregation that has mostly Melancholy and Phlegmatic people in it.  Yes, you guessed it, this might be why the church is small.  These people are naturally inclined to seek space and quiet because these are what is important.  So if you are inclined to start a high energy children ministry, then you might have trouble getting people on board to serve in that capacity.

If you are a Melancholy pastor, you might be inclined to have the perfect music ministry.  Doing things to perfection are important to you.  Yet, you might have a congregation full of Sanguine and Choleric people.  Guess what?  These people are not into perfection.  Sanguine people will simply fly be the seat of their pants.  Both personality types will get busy without analyzing what they intend to do.  Order might be important to the Melancholy pastor, but Sanguine and Choleric people are very outspoken and can overwhelm you.

If you are a Phlegmatic pastor, then you are always struggling to bring peace to everything.  Yet, you might have a congregation of that has mostly Choleric and Sanguine people who struggle to lead in all situations.  Chaos may be an ongoing issue.   Anger might abound.  You need to know that God has hardwired these people to be leaders and loud.  It will be important for you to find a way for them to lead and use their energies.

You might be Choleric pastor who wants loyalty and people to fulfill their responsibilities.  You will have to be careful that you don’t hurt anyone by demanding that they do what they are supposed to do.  So if you criticize someone who is Melancholy or Phlegmatic you will deeply hurt their feelings.  Or, if someone is Sanguine they will get angry back at you.  You will have to become an encourager to your people.

What do all of these examples mean?  No matter what type of shepherd you are, Sanguine, and etc.  You need to adjust your methods of leadership.  What might have worked in one situation will not work in another.  God has gifted you with certain skills that will help you lead.  But you must know your congregation.  Do not fall into the trap of thinking that people are against you.  They are not.  They have come hardwired by God.  You must find the ministry that comes natural to them.  If your people are doing ministry from the gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon them, but you know that they are working outside of how they are hardwired, then you must realize the amount of effort and energy that they expending.  Once you know this then you can shepherd them in the way to find rest and relaxation.  In other words, so that their batteries can be recharged again.

One last point.  Everyone of us is able to recieve the Fruits of the Spirit.  In these Fruits is one called self-control.  Each of these Fruits is a product of the Spirit at work in our lives.  As a result, these personalities are to all to submit to the Spirit.  Yet, most of the time, you find that many Christians really are not living in submission to the Holy Spirit.  This is why it is important to die daily to ourselves.  This information should help you to understand what is best for your church.  In this day of leadership oriented ministry, it is a good reminder to know that you are also supposed to be shepherd oriented in ministry too.  These were just some clues that you might want to examine so that you can better serve God’s flock.

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4 Comments

Filed under Church Health, Leadership, Small Church

4 responses to “Knowing your small church

  1. Very enlightening. Thank you so much Scott.

    Go get ’em…

    AP

  2. That’s interesting. It makes being a pastor sound like a real challenge, but, then, it is one. God bless you.

  3. Guy

    Do you think a Phlegmatic personality can effectively lead a congregation? With so many Cholerics, I can see this daunting for a Plegmatic.

    I was also wondering, can a male Phlegmatic marry a female Choleric, or is that dangerous?

  4. Scott Uselman

    Guy. I do think a Phlegmatic personality can effectively lead a congregation. Each type of personality has its own strengths and weaknesses. So this means that this type has strengths that are useful too. We do have the ability to take on characterisitcs of a Choleric type too. Sometimes we are able to wear a mask by appearing Choleric when we are really Phlegmatic. I am a loud Sanguine. But, some people think that I am Melancholy. Those who do not know me well. I work at trying to keep my mouth from running because I am aware that I tend to do that. So I wear a mask. A lot of times Phlegmatic people are very successful as leaders because they can do this. What is more, people love them.

    As far as marriage, I think any marriage is dangerous. : ) This is why pre-marital counseling is so important. What about a Choleric marrying another Choleric? One will be the leader and the other won’t or it will be a rough marriage. I think it will depend upon how both types realize that they have to surrender to Christ. The Spirit overcomes all personality types. How those two view who the head of the marriage will be is what will have to be examined. Thanks for stopping by.

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