As ministry leaders, we are not exempt from the mistake of thinking that everyone looks at life the same way we do. We assume the volunteers we lead have similar needs and are driven by the same desires.
This sometimes makes it hard for us as ministry leaders to understand the unique motivations, concerns, and styles of the staff and volunteers we serve.
On the surface, the Enneagram looks like any other personality test. It features nine distinct ways of looking at the world. But it also examines the unique ways that each type responds to living in this broken and often confusing world.
The Enneagram doesn’t just describe a person’s personality, it helps us understand what motivates him or her. It encourages us as ministry leaders to be mindful of our perspectives—and perspectives of our teams—in a way that can help us:
This series of articles will improve your ability to lead and manage your staff and volunteers. If you’re unsure about your Enneagram type or want to give the test to your volunteers and staff members, you can take a free online assessment like the one at YourEnneagramCoach.com.
How to Use These Articles
This series of articles examines each of the nine Enneagram types, and includes the following elements:
These resources will develop your skills as a leader and manager and enable you to develop a strong team.
Type 3: The Achiever
Attributes: Ambitious, Adaptable, Charming
Driving motivation: To appear successful and accomplished
Key verse: “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).
There aren’t many who throw themselves into a task with the enthusiasm of a Three. They’re driven by results and incredibly motivated to be successful. Additionally, they see the world through a lens of accomplishment and achievement, and they strive to be the best at whatever they do.
The Threes can turn the most mundane activities into a competition. They love being pushed to operate at the top of their game and competing with others helps draw that out. In ministry, competitiveness can seem untoward, but for the Three, it’s essential.
So, it’s vital that other personality types recognize that competition keeps Threes motivated and that they tend to choose rivals they respect and admire.
Threes usually function from a belief that they earn recognition and respect through accomplishment. This pushes them to appear perfect because their greatest fear is to be seen as a failure.
This means that they often consciously or unconsciously strive to excel in whatever their immediate culture values.
In the world, this could mean chasing after nice homes or cars. In churches, this can often translate to having the most Bible knowledge, being the most at effective evangelistic outreach, or serving the most.
Leading as a Three:
Almost anything can be accomplished if you work hard enough. As a Three, you want to succeed in whatever position you find yourself in. Furthermore, the people you’re leading tend to see you as consistent and dependable.
In a team setting, many will find your drive to succeed inspiring—others may just find it exhausting.
To lead others efficiently, you need to invest in relationships. This means learning to truly listen to others, and not put subordinates in a position where every idea or contribution has to compete for value.
Like most personality types, Threes can struggle to understand people who don’t share their motivations, so you need to recognize that volunteers aren’t necessarily driven to be the best teachers, greeters, or servants that ever existed—they just want to be helpful.
When you’re under pressure or stress, you tend to double down, and you don’t give up. In fact, you don’t really even like to slow down. When the going gets tough, you go harder. Certainly, this is an admirable quality and one of the reasons people tend to look up to Threes.
But while you might come across as indefatigable, your teams aren’t. Many church volunteers have horror stories about being pushed too hard by well-meaning Threes.
Motivating a Three:
If you give a Three an idea of what you expect from them—and examples of others who are doing it well—they’ll be off and running. You don’t have to do a lot to manage a Three. So, just give them enough room to perform at the level they need to.
It’s critical that you don’t put too many obstacles between a Three and the goal. A Three is happy to strive to meet an expectation or deadline, but the moment they feel like you’re an obstruction to their performance, you can expect issues.
The only thing Threes hate more than feeling like they’re not allowed to excel is to feel like goals are being changed arbitrarily.
Threes will shine in almost any role. They might be driven by results, but they’re generally outgoing and charming to boot. Put them in a position that will challenge them and then get out of the way. They will rise to the occasion.
The Three needs a ladder to climb or goal to accomplish. When they’re at the top and don’t see anything else to achieve, conquer, or compete with, they’ll start getting restless.
They’re not great at preserving the status quo, so they’re not going to be happy long term in a position that’s not pushing them to learn something new. If you have a maintenance role to be filled that’s full of busy work, try not to fill it with a Three.
Building Better Teams
People operate best when they’re plugged into roles where they really fit. A lot of the ministry struggles churches experience come from filling vacancies with whoever is available.
Hopefully, the Enneagram will help you better understand your unique management style—and how you can position people according to their strengths. Because teams that fit together well can help churches thrive!
Valuing the various personalities in our churches empowers us to do better ministry. Once we understand the rich diversity of our churches we can:
Additional Articles for Leading Volunteers with the Enneagram
- How to Lead Volunteers: The Reformer (Enneagram One)
- How to Lead Volunteers: The Helper (Enneagram Two)
- How to Lead Volunteers: The Individualist (Enneagram Four)