How a Type 3 on the Enneagram experiences your church and how to connect them

In 1999, I saw them throughout my church but thought they would leave it, unconnected.

Several business owners were coming into my church and connecting at a descent level with me personally but not relationally with others in the church. I began asking myself why and came up with these 2 observations:

  1. Entrepreneurs are not “joiners” and value their independence so they don’t jump on the same band wagons other guests do (i.e. your assimilation environments).

  2. Entrepreneurs see the glass half empty, share an often unappreciated critical eye on things, and are always thinking about how that glass can become full.

I didn’t want to risk these men, some of them new believers, drifting out of the church. They were great guys and I enjoyed their company. They were never going to find each other as they weren’t the kind to “jump in” to the 101, 201+ classes we had at the time.

So I took matters into my own hands.

I invited them to a 3-week meet and greet at one of their homes-some good food, wine and cigars included. I was excited for them to meet each other and they had chemistry from the first moment on. I opened with Psalm 133 and what it’s like when brothers dwell together in unity and then shared my fear of them not connecting and my 2 observations as to why. They wholeheartedly agreed and related to it all. I then went for the jugular: Would they be willing to commit to a 3-week study with me on King Solomon’s business strategies? After which time I would bow out and let them lead themselves.

What happen next taught me even more about how Achievers approach life.

How do Threes see their world?

Threes are called Achievers because they see the world as a place filled with opportunities to demonstrate their value by overcoming challenges, creating better results, and reaching unreached goals. Because they easily gauge their value by how others value their contribution, Threes can polish their results a little more shiny then they actually are, glossing over some important issues that may also need to be addressed to maximize a win.

The driving emotion and source of reaction of each triad of the Enneagram.

The driving emotion and source of reaction of each triad of the Enneagram.

Not surprisingly, failure is the most fearsome thing a Three can conceive of in this life. Twos, Threes and Fours are all part of what the Enneagram calls the Shame Triad. We can easily see a failure not as something we did or didn’t do, but as something we are and the drive to avoid that is an energy that pushes a three forward. Only Jesus himself has broken that drive in me and speaking it out and spotting it in others is part of my passion in ministry.

The fact that I am a 3 wing 2 (click here to read my primer on the enneagram and your church, including what “wings” are) adds color to my quest for value. As an Achiever with a Helper wing, it means I have a desire to help people achieve something of high value. This makes the coaching role a natural one for me and also makes the role of a Sherpa helping others ascend a summit even more compelling to me. I know it fuels me as I lead Base Camps for churches to help them connect people well.

How do Threes see your church?

Threes tend to see church as a hoop, or a series of hoops. By hoop, I mean something to jump through in order to achieve something. That sounds unappealing, unorthodox, but it’s true. We threes need to see the environments that we choose to live in as places we can win in, places where we can make a difference. If we can’t see that, we won’t jump. We want to be known as someone who can deliver on something that is needed, even vital to any community we are a part of and church is no exception.

This of course makes us vulnerable to feeling like we only have value when we perform. I can remember carrying the book “When I Relax I Feel Guilty” by Tim Hansel everywhere I went my senior year of high school. It spoke to me so powerfully because my most profound struggle in the first half of my life was to find my value in what God had done for me, not what I had done for him. It would be years before I overcame that handicap.

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Dos and Don’ts for for connecting a Type Three

Do: Put them in charge of something

Make sure there is a goal or objective to achieve or they will become bored. They are not maintainers so don’t put them in charge of taking care of something. They are designer/developers so put them in charge of something that needs to be turned around, something that has the potential to leave a mark and move the ball forward for your church and its vision. If your church has an area to turn around or an objective it has struggled to achieve, have a Three put a proposal together and empower him to act on that plan.

This approach is key to assimilating Threes as they don’t usually jump into your assimilation program. They value their independence too much to jump through that hoop with the rest of the cattle. The way to get them in it is to put them in charge of something the requires them to be there. Then they sense that you see them as valuable and if the program is obviously a good primer to ministry effectiveness at your church, they’ll do it. Ask them for their input to make it a better program while they attend and you’ll exponentially increase your ability to connect them.

Don’t: Nag or micro-manage them

Threes find their value in their ability to perform and deliver. By hovering over them or giving them a script, you communicate a lack of confidence in their ability to deliver. Hold them accountable for results and challenge them to come up with ways to achieve them. Be careful not to put them under leaders who would want them to adhere to old scripts or strategies that have produced the status quo results that you are wanting them to move beyond.

What is the “Superpower” of a Three on a volunteer team?

Threes have a wizard’s ability to develop a ministry. If needed, they can do it from scratch. With a bent toward helping a ministry achieve great results, they can design (or redesign) something in such a way as to increase its ability to accomplish things. When they invest in people, they can give them the ability to accomplish things as well.

When you give a Three an area to develop they will:

  • Invest time in research.

  • Work extra hours

  • Deliver results

  • Drive people toward their best selves

  • Provide passion and enthusiasm for those joining them in the task.

Add some periodic recognition here and there to assure them of their value and you will be able to harness their superpower of development for your church’s ministry for a long time to come.

Challenging young adults from Chile, Ecuador and Peru to become connectors at the Vive Conference in 2018. A Three wing Twos paradise.

Challenging young adults from Chile, Ecuador and Peru to become connectors at the Vive Conference in 2018. A Three wing Twos paradise.

So remember that group of entrepreneursI told you about? I got them to attend for three weeks. That was 1999. They told me I couldn’t go anywhere after that and now, after 20 years, we still meet. I consider these guys among the best friends I have on earth. We’ve vacationed together, walked each other through health, marriage and economic crisis’ together, and I cannot picture my life without them. We’ve even studied the Enneagram together.

In addition, they became Elders in our church, served on international mission boards, helped build orphanages in Mexico, bought property for schools in Kenya, built homes in Chile, and helped build local shelters for battered women in our community raising countless dollars in the process. I have learned a lot from these men.

Above all, I learned that if you consider the Dos and Don’ts, you can connect Threes like them into authentic friendship and high impact ministry. If you do the same, you’ll be glad you did.

Two Freebies to help you use the Enneagram to better connect with guests:

  1. Andy Stanley’s Podcast on the Enneagram for Leaders part 1. This is an interview with Ian Morgan Cron (my personal favorite speaker and writer on the Enneagram) and Andy’s daughter…who is a Three! This was so informative that I can’t wait for part 2.

  2. My Instagram. What? How? I am posting some useful assets to this series there including 9 different guests scenarios at your church and how each number on the Enneagram experiences them for better or worse. Sharing these with your staff can produce some healthy (and at times humorous) assessments on the connectability of your church’s assimilation strategy for a wide variety of Enneagram types. Follow me there and join the fun, resources and bite-size insights that I share no where else.

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  • Do you know any new people to your church who might be a Three? What are some ways these Achievers could be more easily identified? How would you shape the “ask”?

  • What kinds of roles do you think an Achiever would find fulfilling at your church? What result oriented challenge could they speak into? What task force could they put together to address an issue that could result in a breakthrough for your church’s vision?

  • Name 3 adjectives you would use to describe your church’s leadership culture in relationship to Threes. Is this a friendly or unfriendly environment for connecting a Three? What is one strategic decision that would create a more effective leadership environment for an Achiever?

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