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Self-Awareness and Spiritual Development of Adolescents: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a Possible Tool for Youth Ministry

17/01/2021

YOUTH MINISTRY AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT 

Young people are masterfully and uniquely designed by the Creator who calls them beloved. Those within Christian youth ministry have the privilege to highlight these unique designs and to guide and encourage each young person on their journey. The potential is great for young people to grow spiritually when they understand the intricacies of how God created them. Amy Jacober (2014, 107) writes: [Youth ministers] play a vital role in celebrating the very particulars in which young people have been created. For some, we get to name what is good and beautiful when they cannot see it. We get to point them towards inclusion in the narrative of God in moments when isolation seems to surround their every move. As Christian youth workers, we are in the unique position to offer what the world neglects: that their identity in all of its particularities is rooted in Christ as his beloved creation.

As the adolescent stage of life is a key building block of development, it is important to provide young people with appropriate tools to aid their spiritual formation. Julia McGuinness (2009, 1-2) likens a Christian’s spiritual journey to road travel; while a believer may know the end destination, a clear route saves time, cost and frustration. An important aspect of this journey is understanding that spiritual development is not acquired through an awareness of, or in search of, spiritual meaning. Rather, spiritual development requires a commitment of engagement into spiritual practices (Wink and Dillon, 2002, 916- 920). This opens the door for those within youth ministry to create opportunities for meaningful engagement with spiritual practices for adolescents. By providing such opportunities we are inviting young people to participate in a journey with God (Whitehead, 2014, 149).

USING THE MYERS-BRIGGS PERSONALITY TYPE INDICATOR IN YOUTH MINISTRY 

A personality assessment tool such as the MyersBriggs Type Indicator (MBTI) allows young people to better understand their weaknesses and guard themselves against them. It also provides them with opportunities to develop strengths by highlighting the potential that each of the sixteen personality types offer (Goldsmith, 1997, 26). However, it is important to communicate clearly that there is not a ‘better’ result. A young person might be drawn to the very visible or prestigious roles in ministry but all gifts, teaching, serving, prophecy, mercy and so on, are equally important (Powell, 2001, 206). In the same way, none of the sixteen Myers-Briggs personality types are superior to another. Each type has its own strengths (Goldsmith, 1997, 26). The MBTI is an instrument to better understand yourself and others. Myers wrote that understanding personality types ‘[l]essens friction and eases strain. In addition, it reveals the value of differences. No one has to be good at everything’ (Myers & Briggs Foundation, 2020).

HOW CAN THE MYERS-BRIGGS TYPE INDICATOR HELP? 

Using the MBTI to create a personalised development plan would allow adolescents to participate in practical theology focused on the outward-driven ministry of serving the kingdom of God, while they concurrently enhance their spiritual development. Here are some practical examples of how this might work. Those who have been assessed as INTJ, ISTP, INTP, ESTP and ENTPs tend to enjoy computers and the technical field. Perhaps we should welcome young people with such personality traits to participate in the audiovisual team. INFJ, ENFP and ENFJ personality traits have a high tendency to become teachers. Therefore, young people with these personality types could be invited to assist with Sunday School. While I am intentionally simplifying this process, I believe this exercise would be a springboard towards finding a great ministry placement for each young person as it provides a way to start the conversation and see what roles each young person gets excited about and could potentially thrive in. It helps to identify and utilise the gifts of adolescents within the church. Engaging young people in the faithful pursuit of Godly endeavours and using their God-given personalities would have a tremendous impact on the church as well as their individual spiritual development.

Moreover, it is important to communicate to young people that their uniqueness and individuality is not diminished by coming under the umbrella of a personality type (Goldsmith, 1997, 26). The concern that the MBTI is stereotyping individuals with a fourletter label is legitimate, but this should not prevent us from taking advantage of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to increase our self-understanding (Thesing, 1990, 56-57). The MBTI should be used as an instrument to assist —not to pigeon-hole— a person based on their personality type results. Using the MBTI as a tool for spiritual development will make an impact on a person’s life and their sphere of influence. Ali Campbell (2014, 129) writes about creating relational engagement within youth ministry, and one of the four areas she highlights is that young people need to feel significant. Campbell has found that doing youth work alongside young people, rather than to them or for them, reiterates to adolescents their significance. Within this proposed application of engagement, we are creating an opportunity for adolescents to use their gifts and talents within the church and acknowledge their significance while being supported by seasoned members. This partnership will facilitate the opportunity for young people to serve while having a safe place to engage and develop. Reflecting on Generation Z’s current rejection of the Christianity that has been modelled for them (Esqueda, 2018), it is worth considering that supporting adolescents would benefit Generation Z’s understanding of Christianity as well as their own spiritual development. 

 

LITERATURE CITED 

Campbell, A. (2014) ‘Like a friend: Response’. in Nash, S. and Whitehead, J. (ed.) Christian Youth Work In Theory And Practice. London: SCM Press, pp 127-129

Esqueda, O. (2018) What Every Church Needs To Know About Generation Z. Talbot Magazine - Biola University Blogs. Available at: https://www.biola.edu/blogs/talbotmagazine/2018/what-every-church-needs-to-know-aboutgeneration-z (Accessed 20 August 2020)

Goldsmith, M. (1997). Knowing Me, Knowing God. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Jacober, A. (2014) ‘Adolescent identity development’. in Nash, S. and Whitehead, J. (ed.) Christian Youth Work In Theory And Practice. London: SCM Press, pp 97-112.

McGuinness, J. (2009) Growing Spiritually With The Myers-Briggs Model. London: SPCK.

Myers & Briggs Foundation. (2020) Ethical Use Of The MBTI Instrument. Available at: https://www.myersbriggs. org/myers-and-briggs-foundation/ethical-use-of-the-mbtiinstrument (Accessed 14 May 2020). 

Powell, K. (2001) ‘Focusing youth ministry through community’, in Dean, K. Clark, C. and Rahn, D. (ed.) Starting Right. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, pp. 195-208. 

Thesing, R. J. (1990) ‘The Myers-Briggs, enneagram, and spirituality’, The Way. Supplement, 69, pp. 50–60.

Whitehead, J. (2014) ‘Spiritual practices and faith formation’. in Nash, S. and Whitehead, J. (ed.) Christian Youth Work In Theory and Practice. London: SCM Press, pp. 145-160.

Wink, P. and Dillon, M. (2002) ‘Religiousness, spirituality, and psychosocial functioning in late adulthood: findings from a longitudinal study’. Psychology and Aging, 18(4), pp. 916-924.

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