Earlier this month, nearly 100 clergy and laity gathered at Hayes Barton UMC for a Day of Learning to explore the Enneagram and how this ancient tool can help transform our relationships. Participants sat at round tables, often with teams from their own church, so that they could process together the information they were learning and think about how to put their new knowledge into action in their own ministry contexts.
Some participants already knew about the Enneagram and were eager to learn more. Others were new to the system. Regardless of how much prior knowledge participants had, a common refrain was that listening to the panelists, each of whom represented one of the nine “types” identified in this system, made the Enneagram real. They “put skin on the information,” as one participant commented.
The presenter, Anissa Ferris, uses this system to teach the Enneagram often. She calls it the “narrative method” and finds that hearing from real people about their experiences works much better than taking inventories or hearing about the different types second-hand. After all, the reason these laity and clergy gathered—and the reason teams from churches came together—was to learn how to work better with one another.
How does the Enneagram do this? As Jamie Thompson, pastor who attended with a team of five from Pink Hill UMC, explains, “The Enneagram helps us acknowledge that people have different struggles.” Moreover, when we become aware of these different struggles, it “moves us toward a place of greater compassion in our relationships and interactions.”
The day was full of suggestions for how best to work and communicate with each of the nine “types.” For example, when working with a “two” (one of the “heart types”) it is important to sandwich any constructive criticism with positive affirmations. However, when working with an “eight” (one of the “head types”), it is much more effective to be direct. A direct challenge energizes and engages the “eight,” while that same approach could cause a “two” to feel diminished and to retreat.
Yet the overall take-away from the day was much deeper than simple strategies for communicating. Ultimately, the day was about recognizing and valuing the diversity of God’s people. We are different. We look at the world differently. We experience the world differently. We bring different gifts and struggles to the table. And the more we learn to recognize, value, and even celebrate those differences, the more we begin to look and act like the body of Christ.
~ Article written by Josey Bridges Snyder, Center for Leadership Excellence