Articles & Resources for Church Workers

Motivating the Right Person into the Right Ministry

Fri, 15 Dec 2006 - 10:39 AM CST


People in the pew are, for the most part, overworked, overextended, and exhausted by the time they arrive at church. The leader, especially in small- and medium-sized churches, must be a leader, a manager, and a facilitator and often all three at the same time. As the leader, he does the right thing; as manager, he does things right; and as facilitator, he helps others do things.1 He needs to help people become servant leaders who want to do what is right and also feel fulfilled in ministry.


Leaders often appeal to duty and oughtness to motivate people. Sometimes leaders resorted to guilt, shame, coercion, and manipulation. This usually led to short-term commitments because people did not feel appreciated, fulfilled, or rewarded for their efforts. Today’s volunteers expect more from the church but have less time to give, will financially support only what they think is meaningful, and are less loyal to a home church. They are more likely to be motivated by a meaningful purpose (something that makes a difference in their personal life, family, or community).


Jesus is a great example of a leader who understood the hearts and motives of each of His disciples. He challenged them, in different ways according to their personalities, to follow Him. He loved both Peter and John, but He recognized their personal differences and motivations as indicated in the Gospel of John: “Then he [Jesus] said to him [Peter], ‘Follow me!’ Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. … When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me’ ” (John 21:19–22).


It is important for leaders to understand basic personality types and what motivates each type. Understanding why people behave the way they do and their thinking processes can help a pastor properly assign, motivate, instruct, and supervise their ministry.

Leaders must assume that people who love God and sense a call to serve Him want to do their best. Richard Dortch, former Illinois District superintendent, said, “The majority of people will do what is right the majority of the time if properly informed. Your role as a leader is to inform them.” If people are preached at, berated, and intimidated, they will not want to be on the team and usually will move to a more affirming environment.


Attempts to understand human behavior, “Why people do what they do,” dates back to the ancient philosophers Empedocles (ca. 492-430 B.C.) and Hippocrates (ca. 460-377 B.C.). Empedocles, founder of the school of medicine in Sicily, presupposed that all matter came from the four basic elements: earth, air, fire, and water. He further postulated that these elements when put together in infinite combinations produced varied results.

Other ancient philosophers believed human behavior was somehow tied to the stars — being born under a certain astrological sign. Hippocrates, however, said, “It’s none of those things.” Rather, he postulated that it had to do with the natural flow of fluids throughout the human body.

Hippocrates believed that cold, fast fluids coursing through the body indicated a person would be a strong leadership-type person. A person who talked nonstop would have fast hot or warm fluid coursing through his body. If a person had fluid that was warm and slow, he would be more of the family type, stable and relational. Slow, cold fluid indicated a person was a thinker, perfectionist, or given to much detail.

Hippocrates gave names to each of these personality types: choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholy. Although his theory could not be supported medically or otherwise at the time, it was the first valid attempt to define human behavior on any level.

Twentieth-century behavioral scientists, like Swiss Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, expanded upon Hippocrates’ theory. In 1921, Jung published Psychological Types in which he described four psychological functions: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. He further classified these functions into what he called introvert and extrovert type behaviors.

Dr. William Moulton Marston, an American psychologist and expert in behavioral science, is credited with the development of the DISC profile. In his 1926 published work The Emotions of Normal People he outlined the current language and four personality styles now associated with DISC: D (Drive), I (Influence), S (Steadiness), and C (Compliance).

Since Marston, many individuals have contributed to the maturation of the DISC. Today, it has become a common tool companies use when selecting qualified job applicants.


It is critical for leaders to understand that people are combinations of all four personality types and have a primary and usually a secondary type. Our primary personality type is the result of our genetic makeup, family interaction, and life experiences. Our secondary type is developed in response to our environment. Sometimes this is exhibited in the person who may be outgoing and dynamic in public, but quieter and withdrawn in the comfort and emotional safety of family and friends.

It is also helpful to keep in mind that there are three kinds of motivation: fear, incentive, and causal.2 All three have value. As stated earlier, some leaders use guilt, shame, coercion, and manipulation to motivate people. While this creates an unhealthy fear, people need to have a healthy fear if they do not obey God’s call to service or to please Him. The incentive motivation says, “What is in this for me?” In ministry there should be a sense of reward and fulfillment, but our ultimate incentive is pleasing God, serving others, and achieving an eternal reward. The casual motivation is the influence exerted by the servant leader who leads the way and causes others to want to follow.


Over the years many writers have utilized variations of the personality types. Tim LaHaye in Spirit-Controlled Temperament uses the traditional Greek terms. Gary Smalley uses animal characteristics. Each provide valuable resources in aligning personality types and biblical principles:3


Tim LaHaye Choleric Sanguine Phlegmatic Melancholy








Gary Smalley Lion Otter Golden Retriever
Leader Expressor Dependable Melancholy


The following overview describes the motivational distinctives of each of the personality types:

D — Motivating Factors5

Highly dominant individuals like to be in control and they seek opportunities to reinforce and emphasize their personal power. They measure their progress in life by their achievements and successes, and need to maintain a sense of personal momentum.

Being impatient and forthright, they intensely dislike situations they are unable to directly resolve for themselves — dependence on other people is anathema to this personality type. They find these kinds of situations extremely frustrating, and can be driven to wild, impulsive actions in an attempt to relieve the pressure.

Motivating the High D

The High D wants:
•    to control their own destiny and the destiny of others.
•    the power and authority to achieve results.
•    prestige, position, and titles.
•    opportunity for rapid advancement.
•    to maintain their focus on the bottom line.
•    freedom from controls, supervision, and details.
•    efficiency in people and equipment.
•    new and varied experiences.
•    challenges with each task.
•    a forum for verbalizing.

Managing the High D6

•    Clearly explain the expected results.
•    Negotiate commitments one-on-one.
•    Define rules.
•    Confront face-to-face in all disagreements.
•    Provide challenging assignments.
•    Teach them to be understanding and easy on other people.
•    Teach them to pace themselves and relax.
•    Train them to understand teamwork and participation.
•    Teach listening skills.
•    Make sure their emotional intensity fits the situation.
•    Plan advancement and a career path.

I — Motivating Factors

Relationships with others motivate highly influential individuals. Specifically, they need to feel accepted by those around them, and they react badly if they perceive themselves to be rejected or disliked. Praise and approval make a strong impression on them, and they will sometimes go to great lengths to achieve this kind of reaction from other people.

Especially important to this type of person are the opinions and reactions of particularly close friends. When a High I develops close ties with someone, that person becomes part of his influence group. His actions will often be designed to improve and extend relations within this group, even to the extent of alienating people who are not part of his circle. This factor can make highly influential characters appear unpredictable at times.

Motivating the High I

The High I wants:
•    an environment free from control and data.
•    popularity and social recognition.
•    freedom of speech and people to talk to.
•    favorable working conditions.
•    group activities outside the job.
•    identification with the team.
•    public recognition of their ability.
•    monetary rewards.

Managing the High I

•    Assist in setting realistic goals.
•    Work with on-time management.
•    Develop a friendship and make time for daily interaction.
•    Have an open-door policy to discuss any issues.
•    Teach behavioral styles to improve social interaction.
•    Station them in an area where they can have social interaction and get the job done.
•    Allow them freedom of movement, without control.
•    Set clear objectives for each task.
•    Look for opportunities for them to utilize their verbal skills.

S — Motivating Factors

The underlying patience of this type of person is the root of their motivating factors. They need to feel they have the support of those around them and, more important, time to adapt to new situations. They have an inherent dislike of change, and will prefer to maintain the status quo whenever possible; sudden alterations in their circumstances can be difficult for them to deal with.

Once embarked on a task, they wish to concentrate closely on it and see it through. Interruptions and distractions of any kind can be particularly demotivating in these situations.

Motivating the High S

The High S wants:
•    logical reasons for change.
•    identification with team members.
•    harmony — a happy home and work life.
•    procedures that have been proven.
•    a road map to follow.
•    closure on tasks.
•    time to adjust to change.
•    appreciation.
•    recognition for loyalty and service.
•    to know you care.
•    to work with a small group of people and develop relationships.

Managing the High S

•    Clearly explain upcoming changes to prepare them.
•    Give tangible rewards.
•    Make an effort to get to know them and their needs.
•    Allow them opportunity to finish tasks.
•    Assign them fewer, larger projects.
•    Encourage their contribution in meetings.
•    Involve them in long-term planning.
•    Work carefully to stretch them to new heights.
•    Create a nonthreatening environment, allowing disagreement.
•    Reward them for good work habits.
•    Clearly define the parameters and requirements of a task.
•    Assign them a small group of people to work with.
•    Do not switch them from team to team.
•    Praise in public, rebuke gently in private.

C — Motivating Factors

The one factor that has a significant effect on a High Cs motivation is certainty. They need to feel completely sure of their position, and of others’ expectations of them, before they proceed. Because of this, they have a strong aversion to risk, and rarely take any action unless they feel absolutely sure about its consequences.

Motivating the High C

The High C wants:
•    operating procedures in writing.
•    safety procedures.
•    to be part of a quality-oriented team.
•    no sudden or abrupt changes.
•    reassurance that the job is being done correctly.
•    available information and data.
•    time to think.
•    objective, tough problems to solve.
•    a manager who follows company policy.

Managing the High C

•    Involve them in defining undefined standards.
•    Involve them in implementing standards.
•    Clearly define job requirements and expectations.
•    Allow them opportunity to finish tasks.
•    Set goals that challenge them.
•    Encourage their contribution in meetings.
•    Involve them in long-term planning.
•    Teach them people skills and negotiating.
•    Respect their personal nature.
•    Allow them to work with a small group of people in a less active area.
•    Do not criticize their work unless you can prove a better way.


How can a leader improve his ability to motivate people into effective ministry? Intentionally and prayerfully taking the following steps will be helpful:
•    Learn to better understand people, what motivates them, and how you can better affirm them to draw the best from them for the good of themselves and servant ministry.
•    Learn to pray more specifically for yourself. Rather than praying, “God help me,” pray, “God help me as I meet with Don because I know I can unintentionally irritate him at times. Help me say and do what is right and be most effective with him.”
•    Learn to pray more specifically for others. When a leader better understands why people act the way they do, he can pray more specifically for them and for his interaction with them.
•    Place volunteers where they fit best, will be most effective in ministry, and receive the most fulfillment.

By doing these things, you will likely develop ministry-effective volunteers who are fulfilled in their ministry and who will, in turn, be great leaders and motivators of others.

Gary R. Allen, D.Min., is executive editor of Enrichment journal and national coordinator of the Ministerial Enrichment Office, Springfield, Missouri.


1. Richard G. Weaver and John D. Farrell, Managers as Facilitators: A Practical Guide To Getting Work Done in a Changing Workplace (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1998).
2. B.J. Bonnstetter, Judy I. Suiter, and Randy J. Widrick, The Universal Language DISC: A Reference Manual (Scottsdale, Ariz.: Target Training International, Ltd., 1993), 22.
3., accessed March 2005.
4., accessed February 2005.
5. All Motivating Factors items are from:, accessed March 2005.
6. All Managing items are from: Bonnstetter, Suiter, Widrick.

Authors: Gary R. Allen

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