How the Enneagram can help you reach a bigger variety of guests at your church

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I will never forget the Sunday night service this year where we offered Step 04 of Next Steps at the same time the Oscars was being aired…

Next Steps is our One Place where we invite guests to connect with each other and our church. Being in Southern California, the Academy Awards is a pretty big competition for things like this (think Oscar parties, pools for your pick in each category, etc.).

The reason I won’t soon forget that night of Next Steps was that we only had 1 person show up…..yes, only one! But it gets crazier: he was a film major at a local university. Astounded by his singular presence on such a big night for people in his chosen field, I asked him why he wasn’t watching the Oscars at some party somewhere. His answer was an education for me on how guests are so unique and that one size truly does not fit all. He said, “I am an introvert and I prefer 1 on 1 experiences like this anyway. Besides, I graduate from Next Steps tonight and I wanted to complete it this month and receive my Certificate of Completion.”

I swallowed my shock and sat down at the table instead of standing behind the podium, used my remote to forward slides in the presentation and went to get coffee during the discussion time so he could bond with the table host at the 8 seat table he was seated at.

But here’s the cool part: It went great, and I learned something: guests that God will lead to your church and mine this weekend are not all the same and one style of connecting does not fit all of them. There is simply not a formula that takes their uniqueness into account.

But there is a tool.

The guests that God will lead to your church and mine this weekend are not the same and one style of connecting does not fit them all.

How can you create pathways for connecting guests who are very different from one another?

The answer is found in an ancient tool that organizations from Motorola to the Vatican have used. The Enneagram was used in communities and groups of people called to important tasks long before the DISC test, Strengthfinders and Gary Smalley’s Lion, Otter, Beaver, Retriever personality inventory.

Here’s a little background on the Enneagram.

No one knows exactly where it came from or who originally came up with it. It appears to be used in Monasteries as early as the fourth century to help monks live in community by better understanding their unique perspectives. It’s origins and influences probably predate Christianity though. Finding a resurgence in Bolivia during the 1960s, this tool assigns people a number from 1 thru 9 to describe their basic approach to life, while pointing them toward growth steps that integrate them holistically in a way that looks like Jesus, who bore the strengths of each number without exhibiting their weaknesses.

I used free food to form a young adult Enneagram Focus Group that I used for research into my new understandings of how someone’s number affects their guest experience. They are standing in this photo in Enneagram order: 1. Dave the Reformer, 2. Nathan the Helper, 3. Ivan the Achiever, 4. David the Individualist (thus, the hair), 5. Carly the Investigator, 6. Olivia the Loyalist, 7. Jake the Enthusiast, 8. Evan the Challenger (which seems to be affecting his attitude toward Jake in this photo), and 9. Kendra the Peacemaker. Most of their direct input will appear in my Instagram posts during this series.

I used free food to form a young adult Enneagram Focus Group that I used for research into my new understandings of how someone’s number affects their guest experience. They are standing in this photo in Enneagram order: 1. Dave the Reformer, 2. Nathan the Helper, 3. Ivan the Achiever, 4. David the Individualist (thus, the hair), 5. Carly the Investigator, 6. Olivia the Loyalist, 7. Jake the Enthusiast, 8. Evan the Challenger (which seems to be affecting his attitude toward Jake in this photo), and 9. Kendra the Peacemaker. Most of their direct input will appear in my Instagram posts during this series.

The 9 profiles or “types” of people on the Enneagram can be summarized by number like this:

  1. The Reformer

  2. The Helper

  3. The Achiever

  4. The Individualist

  5. The Investigator

  6. The Loyalist

  7. The Enthusiast

  8. The Challenger

  9. The Peacemaker

Furthermore, each number can split into 3 possible sub-profiles:

  • A pure singular number

  • A number plus a little bit of the characteristics from the number above them*

  • A number plus a little bit of the characteristics from the number below them*

*When you have some characteristics from an adjacent number, that number is referred to as yout “wing”. For instance, I am a 3 wing 2 (Achiever/Helper) which makes me a coach-type personality that wants to help others achieve something they believe is worthwhile and important.

So how can understanding the different ways guests approach life make us more effective at helping them make meaningful connections in our faith communities?

That is what we are going to explore in the next 9 posts where I will…

  1. Summarize the distinct characteristics and motivations associated with each number

  2. Define the “Dos and Don’ts” of relating to people of each type as guests in your church

  3. Share their unique “Superpower” if they were to join one of your teams as a volunteer.

Since connecting at church for your guests is more of a climb than a coast, we all have to become Sherpas that identify the best route for each of them to reach the summit of full connection. Understanding people’s Enneagram number will make you more effective at helping people find their small group of friends at your church and their unique role in serving others on a ministry team.

Understanding people’s Enneagram number will make you more effective at helping people find their small group of friends at your church and their unique role in serving others on a ministry team.

Here are 3 resources to make this journey of understanding the Enneagram a very profitable one for your assimilation ministry (and 2 of them are free!):

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  1. The Road Back to You.

    This is by far my favorite book on the topic. I have always enjoyed Ian Morgan Cron’s perspectives on life and ministry and his humor and powerful insights on the Enneagram do not disappoint here. The structure of the book is the WIN for me, which includes…

    • A chapter on each type

    • 20 questions before each chapter to discover if you or someone else is that number type (I personally find these more accurate and helpful than the paid ones online)

    • Which number you or someone else of the same type (like your guests) become when they are stressed, secure, as a child, in the work place and in relationships.

    • A 10 point growth plan to become more like Jesus for each number.

  2. Typology Podcast

    This is Ian Morgan Cron’s new podcast where he interviews leaders who represent the various numbers on the Enneagram and what environments they thrive or falter in (imagine what that knowledge could bring you and your ministry in relationship to guests at church!). Subscribe to this free resource. You will enjoy it and find it very interesting.

  3. My Instagram.

I know this sounds self aggrandizing but I can’t help how excited I am about the assets I have had designed that will appear on my Instagram during this series. I will be posting guest experience scenarios (parking lot, greeters, altar calls, volunteer sign ups, membership classes, etc.) and how each one receives them from the perspective of their number on the Enneagram. This kind of awareness will be priceless as well as fun and will largely only appear on my Instagram account where I post my assimilation learnings in real time during the average week of my life as a Sherpa.

So what about my lone guest at Step 04 of Next Steps during the Oscars?

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When I realized he was a 1 wing 9, an introverted rule keeper who finishes what he commits himself to, I was able to calibrate the experience in a way that made him feel valued and a part of the church. He declared himself a member of our church that night. He even won a fleece blanket by winning the Unleash Compassion game. How you may ask? Instead of having him go up and sit on the stage we had set up, I had him stay in his seat at the table and challenged him to get 4 out of 6 questions right to win. And…he did! (I would have given him the fleece blanket anyway but don’t tell him).

After giving him his Certificate of Completion I realized that he came to us feeling like a guest and left us that night a unique member of our spiritual family. That’s why I love our Next Steps environment and what it does almost automatically for those who experience it, customizing and easily scaling the experience along the way.

In the coming posts in this series, I want to encourage all of us to see and respond well to the unique needs of each guest so we will become Sherpas with mad skills in helping them reach their summit successfully (spoken like a 3 wing 2, I know…).

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  • What is the one personality inventory or strengths assessment that told you the most about you? How did it help you understand others? What is one relationship in your life that it helped you understand better?

  • Have you ever had a guest that didn’t seem to gel with the way your church normally connects people? How did you handle that?

  • On a 1 to 10 scale, how much freedom do you have to customize a connection experience for the guests at your church? How can your team strategically take advantage of that degree of freedom to benefit your guests?

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