Enneagram 9 (and in youth ministry)

Enneagram 9’s are peacemakers. Our ideal world is one where relationships are restored and everyone works together in harmony. We long for shalom, or relationships restored to how they should be.

My first real encounter with the Enneagram happened because of a course I was taking for school. A group of us did some reading, took an exam, and met one on one with an advisor before we sat down for a retreat-like classroom experience. We got to try on different “hats” to discern what type we most align with.

I remember feeling so much peace in my heart after this experience. For once I had the words to articulate the things that I had been feeling for so long. I was able to see some qualities in myself that I thought were weaknesses as strengths. This self-knowledge helped me better understand how God has called me to be in youth ministry and how I can utilize these qualities for the Kingdom. It has also helped me pinpoint some areas where I need to grow. Here are some things that I’ve learned:

RELATIONSHIPS = EVERYTHING

I’m a relational person. A SUPER relational person!  Building and sustaining relationships is engrained into the DNA of all things type 9. And this means that I prioritize relationships in my ministry above everything else. I see God as a relational being and I structure my ministries in ways that enable students to form relationships with God, each other, and their leaders. This means that when I have to choose between the big, flashy event and the small Bible Study, I choose the small group Bible Study every time. I prioritize being present in the lives of students over programmatic success. While there are definitely times and places where each of these options are needed, I know my biases and tendencies and lean into those when needed. I have also learned to lean into others to help me when planning bigger events because that is not where I thrive.

LISTENING > SPEAKING

When I’m healthy, I am able to listen really well and listen in a way that is non-judgmental. This is DEFINITELY not something I have perfected, but 9’s at their healthiest can be very safe people to go to when you just need someone to listen objectively. I often find myself sitting in small groups getting lost in the words that other people are saying. Not zoning out, but just taking in all what is being said. I’m working on not only giving people a safe space to talk, but also providing helpful responses to their words. Whether it’s just a kind acknowledgement of thanks when someone shares or something more in depth, I am pushing myself to speak out and to speak well when I speak out.

I AM A RECONCILER

I can see both sides of the story. To some extent this means that I have a difficult time making decisions. For a while I was so overwhelmed having been labeled as “indecisive”, but the enneagram helped me realize that it’s not that I don’t care enough about the situation/idea/stance to make a decision about it. The problem is that I care TOO MUCH about the potential for relational tension. This means that when I care about someone, I am able to fully empathize with their side of the story as well as the other person’s. I’m able to find commonalities and be the go-between, middle of the road person on a lot of topics. In ministry this means that I spend a lot of time thinking about opposing viewpoints and that means I can encourage students to think for themselves and reach their own conclusions. I answer questions and provide guidance, but also encourage students to make decisions for themselves.

At my best I can work with people to navigate differences and help bridge the gap between different churches, organizations, and people. I am by no means the best at this, but I now know that I have the potential to help bring reconciliation to the world.

While the Enneagram is not perfect by any means, it has provided me with a framework for how I operate and given me the tools to embrace the goodness that I have to offer the world and grow in areas that I am weak. It has helped me see and interact with students differently and embrace and encourage a world where people of all types can work together.

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