Henry Ratter writes in the Church Times that, “many members of the clergy have a personality profile that is not linked with growth.”
Reporting on original academic research conducted under the supervision Revd Dr Leslie Francis, Professor of Religions and Education at the University of Warwick and Canon Theologian of Bangor Cathedral, Ratter describes a survey of 100 clergy in charge of congregations in one diocese of the Church of England. Using the Glowinkowski Predisposition Indicator (GPI), he asked the clergy about problem-solving and implementation style, and about their personal feelings and self-control.
The results were striking. The results of the first survey, about problem-solving and implementation, found only six “strategists”: people who are capable of developing solutions to complex problems, and who are able to manage change effectively.
There were 27 “visionaries”: people who are predisposed to look at the bigger picture and who tend to generate radical new ideas (which they might not see through to practical implementation). One third (33) were “planners”: people who enjoy “making things happen”, and enjoy delivering goals. The same number were “practitioners”, people who enjoy undertaking many tasks simultaneously, are focused on the here and now, and tend to be risk-averse.
The results of the second survey, assessing feelings and self-control, showed that 37 were self-contained and ill-at-ease, both with themselves and with their situations. This group may tend to find it harder than others to express their feelings and emotions openly, keeping a lid on things, which can lead to stress that makes a negative impact on their performance at work.
Cross-checking the clergy profiles against their parish statistics, Ratter found that four personality traits were associated with growing numbers in a congregation.
They were more “extraverted”, meaning that they were stimulated by company and able to converse with people that they did not know; more “radical”, meaning that they were prepared to take big steps in managing change; more “at ease with themselves”, meaning that they coped more effectively with what are often challenging situations; and, crucially, more “collectivist”, meaning that they were willing to collaborate and draw on the gifts of people in their congregations.
The latter personality characteristic is crucial, since the ability to empower others and to work collaboratively is more likely to create the conditions that will support growth.
Ratter’s conclusion, that the Church of England should be more “robust” in its approach to selecting ordinands based on personality type, is itself predicated on the bias that the job of the clergy is to grow congregations, which is not the call of every cleric. That said, the idea that a collaboration of gifts works best to build up the body of Christ has been promoted since the letters of Paul, and now there is data to back it up.
Read more of the article at the Church Times.