The ESTJ is a very different leader to the ENFP (see last post). People are drawn to follow the ENFP because she is fascinating and imaginative. Inspirational. The ESTJ is no less a natural leader, but he leads through his authoritative, take-charge personality. Think of an army sergeant. The ESTJ is convinced that he is right and he’s not shy about telling others what to do. Those around him appreciate that he has an outstanding ability to get things done. Unlike some other types, he has his feet on the ground - no fanciful dreaming for the ESTJ! He’s concerned about what will actually work. He develops systems. He implements them. Maintains them. The ESTJ values competence and efficiency in those around him. He has very little patience with sloppiness.
An ESTJ minister is a great asset to a medium to large church. He has the organisational skills to steer the ship effectively. He knows how to set up all the necessary structures of bible study groups, welcoming teams and rosters, to make sure that everything stays afloat. He’s not afraid of conflict. He’s able to cut programs that need to be cut. He’ll make sure that everything is aligned so that the church’s vision can be achieved.
Sound excellent? I think so. Often I think I’d love to have a little more ESTJ in me.
But for every strength there is, of course, a corresponding weakness.
ESTJs often HAVE to be in charge. They can be so convinced that they are right that they don’t feel the need to listen to others. If they don’t keep themselves in check, they can be overly controlling of everyone around them - their spouses, children and churches (dictators!), wanting everyone to step into line. Even if they have managed to not be controlling, people often still view the ESTJ as bossy and insensitive. This comes from the fact that their dominant function is extraverted judging. This means that when they are out and about, interacting in the world, their judging function (thinking) comes to the fore. Unlike their ESTP cousins, they are not there to take in information. They are there to settle things. Make decisions. Apply logic. Solve problems. They want loose ends tied up. They are there to do business. To achieve things. In their interactions with people, this approach can be unhelpful. Pastoral problems rarely have easy solutions. Careful listening is needed. Drawing the other person out. Holding back on the advice. Trying to help the person work out the problem behind the problem. These are things that don’t come easily to the ESTJ.
ESTJ pastors who have not learned to combine their drive for leadership with good listening skills and pastoral sensitivity will find ministry a frustrating experience. They may find themselves inadvertantly hurting others with their insensitive language and ‘advice’ given out of season.
They will also need to learn to manage their perfectionistic tendencies so that they are not always hounding others (staff and volunteers) for their inefficiency and sloppiness.
ESTJs are naturally drawn to leadership positions and their organisational skills are so valuable. Many ESTJs will have had these controlling/insensitivity tendencies pointed out early on, and by the time they are in full time ministry, they will have acquired the patience, listening skills and humility that they need to be the effective leaders that they can be. Alas, some enter ministry unaware...
Perhaps a less obvious weakness that ESTJ ministers face comes from the fact that they are neither creative thinkers (that it, they are s rather than n) nor naturally in tune with what others are feeling (they are t rather than f). This combination can mean that their preaching lacks both theological imagination (creatively drawing biblical ideas together) and pastoral insight. As such it can fail to connect with people on a deep level. The congregation may hear the content that is taught (and it can be great content), but they might not feel the implications of it for themselves so readily.
ESTJs who have not adequately developed their secondary function of introverted sensing will find it difficult to really read the bible properly. At best, S types tend to take much longer than N types to crack a passage - to see the big idea and make connections with other bible passages, to work out what it’s really saying. An underdeveloped S will find this extra hard and ESTJ’s Jness makes it even harder still. Sitting with tensions and unanswered questions is very unnatural for them. They want closure quickly - often far too quickly, before they’ve have a chance to really explore the options and feel the significance of each of them. Instead of waiting through the uncomfortable uncertainty, ESTJs can shut it down, taking the short cut of jumping into a theological system (say, Calvinism) for the answers.
If an ESTJ preacher does this, his/her sermons will lack theological nuance.
Thankfully though, with a conscious effort, an ESTJ’s sermons can be great. They just need to work hard. Phil Campbell and Gary Millar have some great ideas in their book on preaching to help you crack the big idea of a passage. They also have many little hints like “always use illustrations about people”*, things that other personality types know intuitively, that are really helpful.
If you are an ESTJ with a tendency to short cut and shut down difficulties in the bible, I’d advise you to chuck out your Calvinism and your commentaries and your sermon recordings of your gurus. Discipline yourself to use your sensing function properly. Read the bible. Read it again. And again. And again. Think. Work it out by yourself. If you can’t work it out, get up in the pulpit on Sunday and tell your congregation that you don’t know. It will be good for your soul.
In my observation, an ESTJ can make a superb ‘executive pastor’: the guy who makes the ship run smooth. In a big church often you’ll have someone like an ENFP/ENTP/INFP with vision and imagination to set the direction and an ESTJ (or similar) to make it happen. A combination like that can really be magic.
In a smaller church where the ESTJ is the sole pastor, I imagine that he would probably adopt a vision or model of ministry from another church and execute it brilliantly. An ESTJ aware of his pastoral limitations (while working on them) would set up successful systems for pastoral care that take the load off him and share it between gifted people in the congregation.
Through disciplined effort over time, his preaching would be excellent too and I'd love to be in his well run congregation.