There are many gifts and all are needed for the Body of Christ to function.
As a minister, I’ve learned and taught this concept many times and then relearned it and taught it again.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes what some of those gifts may be.
While these categories resonate with the ancient world, I often find my congregants operate with more corporate understandings of what they do well and what kind of results satisfy them.
In my current church context which is very service and outreach-oriented, people tend to qualify themselves as doers, strategic thinkers, encouragers or teachers.
Typing ourselves to a certain way of service can lead to having some roles filled easily and others not at all.
Currently, our church has lots of self-proclaimed doers and seasoned teachers but people hesitate to lead or to consider their service as “ministry.”
Understanding how we approach others to meet their needs and ours can be helpful in determining what ways each of us desires to participate in the Body of Christ.
A handful of our staff and our congregants began working with the Enneagram, a paradigm for understanding 9 various personality types paying particular attention to the types’ spiritual strengths and longings.
As these individuals grew in their understanding of themselves and directed their energy to be more present with people rather than playing to their type, the curiosity and investment of others followed.
We now offer the Enneagram in adult education classes and work with it in development and team-building as a staff.
We also have spiritual directors in our community who are experienced listeners and group leaders within the Enneagram paradigm.
What I most appreciate about the Enneagram is the way it fosters compassion and gratitude for myself and for others.
It is easy for me to envy the gifts and faith of others, believing I do not have the typical qualities of a preacher or pastor or even the right kind of church formation for a faith leader.
Likewise, it can be hard not to be frustrated when someone does not face a difficulty straight-on or charges forward with a direction and doesn’t consult others.
When I’m able to step back and to see that the doubt my type embodies leaves me susceptible to coveting and worry but also enables me to address weaknesses and seek the collaboration of others, I can reorient myself as having a place in the Body of Christ as integral as say, the ones who lead with confidence or seek peace at all times.
The Enneagram shows how we are equally blessed and cursed in different yet complementary ways.
As someone who practices contemplative prayer and reads many of the Christian mystics, I appreciate the ways that each of the types of the Enneagram aligns with the vices and virtues identified by our early church fathers and our Medieval church mothers.
In fact, what makes the Enneagram a deeper tool in church contexts than an approach that plays to our strengths whether it be from a corporate model or a spiritual gifts inventory are the ways the Enneagram reveals our shadow sides and befriends them – turning our vices into an invitation to cultivate virtues that God has placed on the other side of them.
Together our spiritual longings and strengths reveal an image of God who is wise, caring, praise-worthy, forgiving, curious, faithful, joyful, just, and peaceful.
I feel lucky to work on a staff of six people where six of these virtues are represented and to serve a church where all the fullness of God’s glory is present and alive.
The Enneagram has helped me to claim the virtue of my type – faithfulness – to a flawed but devoted institution and to the broken but beautiful individuals that embody it.
To learn more about your own Enneagram type, click here to register for the CLL’s Spiritual Dimensions of the Enneagram course.
Rev. Beth Waltemath is a teaching elder in the PC(USA) with a background in publishing at Random House and Hearst magazines. In her fourteen years as a freelance writer, she has written for Seasons of the Spirit, Village Voice Media, and Humanities Tennessee and has served as editor of www.onscripture.com, an online lectionary commentary focused on current events and social justice concerns. She is a member of the program committee of the Decatur Book Festival, focusing on authors in their spirituality and religion track. She serves as the co-pastor of North Decatur Presbyterian Church in Decatur, GA.