Working with people generates some of our biggest blessings in church and ministry life. However, working with people also creates some of the biggest obstacles to church and ministry life. I remember my mother-in-law joking that many of us could be really holy people if we didn’t have to deal with church people. And, I have found myself more than once pleading with the Lord to just move So-and-So out of my circle so I could have more peace.
Have you been there? I’m sure you’ve felt that way too. The longer you stay plugged into a church family, the more likely it is that you are going to run into people who get right under your skin. They often think, respond, and behave so differently than you that you’re tempted to throw your hands up and walk away from church altogether.
What is it that makes me feel like fire is running through my veins when “Karen” tells me she didn’t bring the group materials to Bible study? She said she was out having dinner with an old friend and just completely forgot. Forgot? I would never dream of forgetting something so important.
Or it’s when the pastor announces that he needs everyone to help host a large block party. You could be thrilled at the possibility of making new friends. Everyone loves a party, right? Or you could be completely exhausted just thinking about the idea of mixing with so many strangers. Nope, this is not for you. You’ll just stay home where it’s quiet and calm.
We all have different personalities and preferences, sure, but what I want us to dive into today goes so much deeper. The Bible tells us in Psalm 139 that “God knit us together in our mother’s womb.” It is here in this intricate weaving that God begins to thread through four different fibers that color and impact our inner workings. Those four fibers are—introverted, extroverted, task oriented, and people oriented. Once these strands are stitched into the tapestry of you, depending on their combination and abundance, they greatly influence your perceptions and behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at these four threads and the traits formed by their different combinations.
Our extroverted friends who are people oriented are the ones who keep us thoroughly entertained and motivated. They love a good party, bring lots of energy to their interactions, and are very creative. When working with people who fall into this category, remember that eye contact, listening well, and positive responses build good communication. These friends are greatly influenced by the suggestions of others and can easily get carried away with all the fun details. Remember, their goal is to entertain you. In my earlier example, when “Karen” forgot the Bible study materials, it’s not that she didn’t care about the Bible study; it’s that her love for people and her ability to be flexible and spontaneous impact her priorities and decisions. She may have decided she could easily come up with questions during Bible study, which would give her more time with her friend and still generate meaningful conversations within the Bible study group. To work effectively with people who are extroverted and people-oriented, praise them for their positive attributes while privately offering suggestions and constructive feedback. Above all, if they feel loved and accepted, they are more likely to work easily with you and your group.
Extroverted people who are task-oriented are very decisive and can share those ideas easily and effectively. They exude confidence and are oftentimes natural leaders. These friends are highly motivated and carry a natural sense of responsibility for those around them. However, they can seem rude when they don’t let others share ideas. They can come across as bossy or opinionated, and they often question the authority of others. When I work with these types of people, I often give them at least one area of responsibility they can control. They feel valued when their hard work is recognized, so saying thank you and listing specific ways they positively contributed build goodwill into the relationship. Overall, people who are extroverted and task-oriented want to know you support and value their contributions.
Now, let’s look at people who are more introverted. Individuals who are introverted and people oriented naturally draw others to themselves through their sense of calm. They absolutely love working with others, so they are positive additions to any team. Peace and harmony are very important to this person, so any conflict or tension between people can easily bring worry. They are often known for being very considerate and sensitive to the emotional and/or physical needs of another person. When working with someone who is introverted and people oriented, we need to remember to make room for them to share their opinions. Many times a person who has this make-up doesn’t readily offer their opinion, which can be interpreted as a lack of care or enthusiasm, but these individuals greatly desire to be included in the conversation. Altogether, we need to provide opportunities for them to lead and then give them space to retreat and recover.
Lastly, we have those who are introverted and task oriented. These people are phenomenal problem solvers. They appreciate the ability to think long and hard about a subject before speaking or acting. This tendency can be misconstrued as being hesitant or unable to act. They often need time and support to thoroughly prepare their response. People with this makeup thrive on planning and detail. When working with these individuals, it’s very important to stick to the original plan as much as possible and communicate changes early. Being given time and space to process and adapt combats their tendency to worry. Most importantly, encouraging these individuals to rise to a challenge and giving them needed space to plan will produce beautiful fruit.
The diversity that God creates within our innate weavings makes our church communities rich. In Genesis, we are told that God made man “in His image” (Genesis 1:26-27). It’s such a beautifully intimate picture. God laces into our makeup the different threads of introverted, extroverted, people oriented, and task oriented because He is all these things in perfect combination. Although working with others can at times feel like rough sandpaper across my skin, God allows these variations to knock off the rough parts of my inner man. These interactions challenge my selfish, prideful nature and provide opportunities to cultivate humility and generosity. Instead of worrying about how something will get accomplished, I can lean into prayer and watch how God answers my petitions through others in my church family.
In this Christian walk, God is growing me into the image of His Son, Jesus. When I choose to understand how God made others, instead of balking at their outlandish ideas, quiet natures, or lack of follow through, I can celebrate that God wove them together intentionally, purposefully, and for my benefit. It is here that the beautiful tapestry of God’s full nature is shown through the church.