The Enneagram Goes to Church


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Adaptation from The Enneagram Goes to Church by Todd Wilson

Adapted from The Introduction, “Pastoring Is About People”

After months of sitting with the Enneagram and sharing in its insights, my mind turned from me, my marriage, and my family to another extremely important part of my life—my work as the pastor of a church.

What about the church? I remember thinking. Does the Enneagram have anything helpful to say about pastoring a congregation, working with a staff, or leading people? What about preaching, worship, or congregational care? Could the Enneagram help me think about all these churchly things?


At the time I became the thirteenth pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park in the Autumn of 2008, I felt well prepared to take up this otherwise daunting responsibility. I was, thankfully, the beneficiary of a great theological education, wonderful pastoral mentors, and a number of fabulous church experiences. I had lots of friends rooting for me, and my wife and family were cheerfully by my side. What did I lack?

As it turns out, one very, very important thing—especially for pastors.


I lacked wisdom about people—who they are and how they work.

When it came to people—empathetically shepherding and sensitively engaging them in their manifold personalities and diverse ways of seeing the world, I was hardly an amateur. I had at best only a middle school understanding of who people are and how they work.

How I wish I would have known the Enneagram back then!

The Enneagram would have saved me from a thousand pastoral blunders and served me so well in guiding a complex congregation in the ways of Jesus. The Enneagram would have given me wisdom—just the kind of wisdom a pastor needs and yet just the kind one has such a hard time gleaning in seminary.

Don’t misunderstand me. There really is no silver bullet for pastoral success. The Enneagram certainly isn’t that. Pastoring a local church is not for the faint of heart, and the Enneagram is not a panacea for pastoral problems. Church work is always messy, often exhausting, usually tedious, and at times heartbreaking. Every pastor will tell you that. There’s no getting around it.

But here is the enlightening truth every seasoned pastor already knows. We human beings are magnificent, mysterious and, yes, maddening creatures. We are fascinating and frustrating. We are curious and complex. We are beautiful and baffling—all at the same time.

And let’s face it, pastoring a church is, if nothing else, an intensely people-oriented business. The pastor is called, as chief among many responsibilities, to know and love and serve and support all these delightful puzzles we call “people” sitting in the pews on Sunday morning.

Of course, leading a church is about a lot of things. Yes, it’s about ministry and missions, buildings and budgets, care and connections, God and the gospel. This is all gloriously and splendidly true. But at its root, pastoring is about people.

Central to pastoral ministry is the ecclesia, the church, what the ancient creeds know as the “communion of saints,” and what the biblical witness refers to as “the body of Christ.” Pastors are called to dirty their hands serving this Spirit-wrought gathering of God’s people, precious ones made in God’s image and redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice.

Therefore I repeat myself. Pastoring is about people—shepherding, serving, leading, and loving people. Nothing less. Which is why I’m convinced that I would have been a much better pastor if I would have known the Enneagram—for the simple reason that this fascinating personality typing system is filled with insights into who people are and how they work—precisely what pastors need.

Because pastoring is about people.

Adapted from The Enneagram Goes to Church by Todd Wilson. Copyright (c) 2021 by Todd Wilson. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, USA.

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