The Enneagram is a personality typing system that suggests there are nine major ways of seeing the world. With uncanny accuracy, it describes how human beings are wired both positively and negatively. The word “Enneagram” is made up of two Greek words: “ennea”, which means nine and “gram,” a drawing. It is a nine-pointed geometric figure to illustrate different yet interconnected personality types.
I’m not an expert on the Enneagram, but I’ve found it to be one of the most effective tools for emotional and spiritual transformation and growth. In over 40 years of ministry, with thousands of hours invested in conferences, workshops, and teachings, nothing has transformed me as powerfully as the Enneagram purposefully combined with spiritual disciplines.
Discovering your true self is vital for healthy leadership. Leaders should be self-aware for our own sake, for the glory of God, and for the wellbeing of others. The Enneagram will expose your authentic and inauthentic ways of being, your true self and false self.
When we lead from a false self, we’re often unable to notice and understand why we repeat unhelpful habits or why we respond to people and circumstances in auto-pilot ways. This tool helps to uncover your motivation and notice healthy and unhealthy behavior in times of stress so you can reach empowered change.
The Enneagram is not a solution though. It is a process to help us become more self-aware as you follow Jesus and lead others to him.
As a Type 7 on the Enneagram, my desire for adventure along with my versatility, optimism, enthusiasm, playfulness, and the ability to engage well with people has served me well. It makes me a visionary leader with lots of imagination and I love to have fun. All this has been extremely helpful as a pastor and leader.
Want to learn more about the enneagram types? Watch our webinar Using the Enneagram to Clarify Your Calling.
However, my shadow side gets me in trouble! I am easily distracted, impulsive, and indecisive. Preparing a sermon is extremely difficult because it’s isolating and boring. It feels painful and I try to escape any sort of negative emotions or pain. This is actually the most difficult thing about being a Type 7; Pastoring provides many opportunities to experience emotional pain.
With God’s grace and the self-awareness I’ve gained through the Enneagram, I’m no longer ignoring or avoiding it. Through the spiritual practices of slowing down, walking, and sitting with Jesus in silence and solitude, I’m learning to be honest with myself and others about the pain of leadership and life. In doing so, I’m experiencing God’s deep love and compassion for me along with greater freedom, peace, and authentic joy.
If we’re willing to let Jesus use this tool to grow and shape us to be more like him, we’ll be able to lead and love out of a place of confident authenticity.
I’ve heard people say, “I don’t want to be put in a box!” But in reality, the Enneagram will reveal to you the box you’re already in. It can also show you the way out. All of us are trapped in patterns of being that are not life-giving for us or for others. Unable to see the log in our own eye, we’ll never experience God’s full intended grace for us.
The Enneagram can also make it easier for you to understand those who see the world differently than you do. You can’t change them, yet you can try to understand and help them change what they do with what they see. It increases compassion for self and others.
The goal of Christian life is not self-knowledge. However, when we encounter more of ourselves, we encounter God. Thomas Merton said, “There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself, and if I find my true self I will find Him.”
Looking for a place to start learning about the Enneagram? I recommend starting with Self to Lose, Self To Find by Marilyn Vancil or The Road Back To You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile.
Using the Enneagram to Clarify your Calling Webinar
Learn more about the 9 different enneagram types
Janice and her husband, Bryan, live on a small hobby ranch in the lakes country of northwest Minnesota. She loves being with people of all ages, and currently serves at Lakes Area Vineyard Church as a pastor where she served as co-senior pastor for 20 years. She loves time in her flower gardens, boating, playing with her horses, dogs, and rag-doll cats plus long walks with friends and Jesus. As a certified and active Spiritual Director, her passion is to lead adults and kids into contemplative spirituality and transformative growth.