Pastoring and DiSC Styles

If you’re unfamiliar with DiSC, it’s a simple but powerful assessment to help you understand your tendencies and preferences. We could go in-depth here with research, but let’s just keep it simple. The test measures you against two main axes: 1) fast-paced and outspoken or cautious and reflective and 2) questioning and skeptical or warm and accepting.

Based on how you respond to a series of adaptive testing questions, you’ll be plotted on an easy to read “circumplex” (fancy name for a circle map). And where you land tells you a lot about why some things drain you and others build you up. Basically, you’re plotted in one of four quadrants (there are actually 12 styles, but we’ll keep it simple for now):

  • D: Takes action to get results, often blunt and driven
  • i: Stays positive, outgoing, and enthusiastic; pushes to collaborate
  • S: Prefers working on a team with a stable environment
  • C: Likes accuracy, working alone, and will challenge the status quo

Which style is best for pastoring? None. Many people assume that a D style would be wired for leading, but that’s not the full picture. Each style has gifts that the church needs. If all pastors are Ds, things could easily get distorted. Same with the other styles.

Really, every style is needed (1 Corinthians 12). You just have to know what will push you harder in your particular style. Think of it like a rubber band. If you’re a C style leader (analytical), interacting one-on-one with new people will stretch you more. That doesn’t mean you can’t; it just means you have to plan for some “recovery time.”

Let’s take a closer look. (Please keep in mind that styles are generalities. Not everyone with a certain style will resonate with all these qualities. Also, you may be a blend of two adjacent styles, such as Di or SC.)

D Style Pastor

D style pastors are driven to get results. They’re always ready to jump into something new.

What comes naturally?

For the most part, you’ll have little fear of taking on the next challenge or goal. You may even get restless if you have been frustrated in making changes. You want to succeed, and you want to succeed as quickly as you can. Just because something has been done a certain way for a long time doesn’t scare you away from asking the hard questions about it.

What drains you?

Two words: Committee meeting. The more analyzing of data and ideas, the worse it gets. You’d likely have a difficult time working in an environment where change takes a long time to materialize. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t do it, but you’d have to focus on smaller victories.

i Style Pastor

I style pastors live for the meet and greet. They’ve never met a stranger, and connecting people is second nature for them.

What comes naturally?

You can stay positive in the midst of difficult seasons, and you’re known for being very engaging with communication (probably using your hands a lot). Like the D style, you love for things to move along quickly, but you really focus on taking as many people with you as you can.

What drains you?

While you understand the need to focus on budgets and stats, doing so really takes a lot out of you. You’d rather have someone on the team who can tell you the bottom line. You may also be prone to “winging it” because planning out all the details beforehand can really seem like overkill (and a buzzkill).

S Style Pastor

In ministry (and in business), the S style can often be overlooked for leadership, but this is to our detriment. These stable Gospel champions have gifts we need.

What comes naturally?

You love getting everyone around the table to talk and discuss ideas. No one can top you for your patience in listening to and accommodating others. You create a warm, inviting environment to meet the needs of those in the community. The more you can keep things humming along, the better you feel.

What drains you?

Change. It’s not that you hate change; it’s just that change takes a lot of energy because you have to make sure everyone is okay along the way. Plus, you have to create a new normal every step along the way.

C Style Pastor

The C style loves for every detail to be covered. You can never “get into the weeds” too much to uncover all the data and to make sure everything is completely accurate.

What comes naturally?

If your ministry has a dashboard of stats, you’re all over that, poring over the numbers each week. (If you can help organize that dashboard to perfection, all the better.) You spot warning signs before most other styles are even thinking about them. All that data means you also like to ask lots and lots of questions to get to the root of an issue and find the best way to do something about it. “Streamlining” is your middle name.

What drains you?

Because it would take too long to explain something to someone else, you’re prone to just do everything yourself. You also get sapped when engaging with smaller groups of a people to accomplish something (mainly because you often analyze everything they say and you say to the nth degree). You may also have a really hard time making a tough decision because you think, “There’s got to be more data that I haven’t considered yet.”

Putting It All Together

Let me just repeat this here: No one style is better for pastoring than any other style. Nor does a particular style limit your role in ministry. We need each style and gifting at every level.

But knowing your style does help you learn to engage more effectively with other people.  It also explains why things drive you crazy or energize you.

[Disclaimer: I am a certified facilitator of DiSC training, a company owned by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.]