Enneagram 7 (and in youth ministry)

“Let’s do all the things! And have as much fun as possible while doing it”

– Enneagram Sevens Everywhere

In case you are new to the Enneagram or have only spent time looking at your number allow, me to provide you with a very simple description of what it’s like to be a seven. Seven’s are sub-labeled as “The enthusiast” because, well, we are enthusiastic about just about everything and anything. Sevens tend to see the best in even the worst of situations and are always looking for an escape from potentially painful moments. Sevens are always looking for their next great adventure. New things are exciting and are always preferable to our current reality. We are great at starting new things and coming up with grandiose ideas, but not so great at pausing and working through those ideas.

So how does being a seven impact my ministry? I’m so glad you asked!

Don’t Worry, It’ll Be Fun!

One of my favorite parts of being a seven, especially when it comes to youth ministry, is that it doesn’t take much effort to make the best of even seemingly awful situations. Whether it be when the church van breaks down, the event we planned has a low turnout, or what would appear to most people to be a mundane trip Walmart, ALL of it can be fun. I firmly believe there is always a party to be had if you try hard enough. And despite everyone not always feeling the same way, I think sevens have the uncanny ability to woo the room or group into having a good time. Seven’s seem to know when the fun thermometer is getting cold and find it our job to turn it back up. Over the past seven years of youth ministry, I have seen how fun has built the bridge for trust and has created a safe space for teenagers to ask deep questions.

Come Hang With Us!

When I’m doing something, I want everyone to come and be a part of it. It doesn’t matter what it is, the more people the better! I think this quality of the 7 has helped me tremendously when it comes to youth ministry. We have all heard some rendition of “students have to feel like they belong before they believe” (unfortunately, while we don’t have time to address the theology behind that statement). However, I do think that this is a tremendous benefit to sevens, as we genuinely want everyone to be a part of what we’re doing. For myself (and I’m sure most sevens,) I find that I feel the most alive surrounded by big groups of people. This excitement and momentum often transfers to students and leaders, when stewarded correctly this can be an amazing tool to an entire ministry (not just the youth pastors ego).

And now for the cons…

Ruining Spiritual Moments

I used to joke that my spiritual gift was ruining “spiritual moments.” I have walked up to countless conversations full of stereotypical seven life and energy only to be greeted with odd stares that read “umm we were having a moment”. This may speak more to my inability to read a room, but nonetheless. I think there is a struggle as a seven to force myself to settle into difficult and painful moments. When students come and share difficult things with me- whether it be what’s happening at home or school- there is this desire within me to just put a bandaid on it and hurry up to the good part, when in reality they, don’t always need a bandaid. They need someone to sit and bear their pain with them, to give them more than emotional warm fuzzies, and to just sit and listen. I find myself mentally coaching myself in these moments to feel all the feelings and not just rush through to the happy ones.

“Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil”

This is my favorite southern idiom, it is most often heard as a response to a Pastor during a church service. (I suppose sometimes an amen just doesn’t cut it.) I think sometimes as a 7, there is a tendency to not always want to speak the whole truth to the people we lead. Not that myself or another seven would intentionally lie, but the pain of potential conflict often outweighs the opportunity for truth. This a constant inner struggle for me- wanting to speak up and say what needs to be said, but also wanting to just have fun and be people’s friends. I think the distinct aversion to pain that sevens experience especially applies to friendships and the people we lead. And while this has been a place of challenge or overall avoidance, it has been probably my biggest place of growth. I have realized that even though a conversation may be painful or difficult, the pain of not having it far outweighs any momentary awkwardness.

So how do sevens balance the tension of an incredibly outgoing and invested personality with an extreme avoidance of pain?

  • Self Control –​ I’m pretty sure that self-control is the least sexy of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5. I’ve found that I have to reframe self-control from being restrictive but rather accept the invitation to slow down and allow Jesus to lead me. And when I accept this invitation to self-control, I find that I can engage wisdom and reason, rather than reacting to feelings, impulses or the best option of that particular moment. As sevens, we must engage Spirit-led self-control and learn to say, “No,” to ourselves, others and the pressures of ministry. This is way easier to type than to put into practice! However, when I lean into self-control it keeps me from feeling pulled away by the excitement of the moment. And instead I can anchor myself in what is important.
  • Practice Being Present –​ Slow down. Live in the present moment and don’t try to fix it. I think it takes an intentional and deliberate effort on our part as sevens to sit with emotions, whether they’re our own someone else’s, especially pain. If you find yourself wanting to run every time things get tense or awkward, I would encourage you to allow safe people in your life to hold you accountable for being present. This may seem unnecessary at first, but this type of feedback helps us to become more aware of our posture and response as we pastor students. If we refuse to acknowledge this area within ourselves, the techniques and strategies for avoiding pain and conflict only add more suffering. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make it go away, trust me! To all my fellow seven’s, may we continue to bring to the table the joy and life that God has gifted us with, knowing there is also room for our pain, discomfort and frustration. .

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