A Chemistry Conversation with Jeff McCord
Your capacity to care for yourself is the greatest gift you can give your congregation. Matt Chandler says, "The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart"
Matt Steen talks with Jeff McCord about how the enneagram, if used properly, can be a great tool for encouraging the health of the individuals on your team and in hiring the right person for your church staff. Spoiler alert ... it's not about the number, but it IS about health and wholeness!
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- Core Motivations of the 9 Enneagram Types
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Read the Full Transcript
Matt: Well hey, it’s Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, here with another Chemistry conversation. Today I’m pretty excited. We’re going to talk to Jeff McCord. So Jeff is Co-Founder of Your Enneagram Coach. He and his wife, Beth, started this, and prior to that spent about 20 years in churches as a pastor, as a church leader, kind of a pretty diverse career. And now currently resides in the Nashville area with his wife, Beth, and two adult kids. Jeff, thanks for taking some time to talk.
Jeff: Oh Matt, it’s great to be here and particularly addressing this topic. I’m thankful that it may be something helpful for pastors and for churches as the Enneagram continues to grow, and what do we do with this thing. It would be great to get some information about it.
Matt: Excited to be able to share some of that. Let’s start off, let’s do a little more general question and then we can dive into some of the Enneagram stuff afterwards. But you may have notices, maybe, that it’s been of a bit of a crazy season for churches and church leaders.
Matt: I’ve heard rumors of this. What trends are you seeing right now in the church in your work with pastors that we should be aware of?
Jeff: Yeah, you know, my heart breaks to be quite honest with you. I stepped away from the pastorate in June 2019 and could not imagine the difficulties that leaders in local churches are facing with all the different dynamics that came at us in 2020. Travis Bradberry wrote in his book Emotional Intelligence 2.0. And the paradigm is personal management and relational management. How I see things transpiring is it is difficult for ministry leaders to hold all of the different interpretations of what’s happening and how to address them but also to take care of themselves. So that anxiety, that angst is showing up in very peculiar, odd ways. Pastors moving when they weren’t thinking about moving, pastors stepping down, and a lot of this is - all the strategies to take care of themselves and to lead have been disrupted. They don’t know what to do now, and that leaves them in a difficult spot, and if they’re not in a safe place, if everybody’s anxious and going after each other, then it’s not safe enough to be curious about how to move forward.
Matt: That’s so true. So much of what we’re seeing right now is just the sheer number of people that are seriously looking. The three weeks leading up to Christmas - typically, there’s something going on around that time of the year, so people are typically busy. But the number of lead pastors that were putting resumes in instead of preparing for their Christmas sermon or something like that was just astounding to us. Probably three or four times what we would see in a typical December. That, for us, signifies that there’s a significant changing of the deck coming up because of just what you’re saying, people are just -
Jeff: And the reality is that pastors are carrying with them their own unhealthiness. We typically think the next bride’s going to be the better one, the best one. The problem is that they’re having the same trouble, and we as pastors have our own unhealthiness and blind spots. So the reality is that we’re going to repeat the same role of difference in move, although sometimes legitimate, doesn’t solve the fundamental problem.
Matt: So say I’m a pastor that’s in this season of looking to transition maybe. You do a good bit of work with the Enneagram and you spend time with people. Enneagram is a great tool to get a better sense of who we are as individuals and understand our wirings. If there was somebody that was talking to you about potentially transitioning in this season from their current church to another church, is there something that you might share with them based on their type, or is there a common warning that you would give certain types in this season?
Jeff: You know, the way that Jesus talked about spirituality in his people is, it all starts in the heart. The heart of the problem is the problem of our hearts, so out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. So our focus with the Enneagram is primarily on the core motivations. Now you can geek out and talk about wings and triads and tri-types and all these different things, but at its core James 4, “What causes fights among you? Don’t they come from the desires that wage war on your heart?” And so, focusing on the core motivations is the utmost important thing because those four core motivations are the way that we interpret our experience, and that’s how we are processing all that’s happening around us, and it’s what we’re striving for. One is core fear, what we’re moving away from. Core desire, what we’re running towards. Core weakness, an unhealthy attribute we bring to all of our relationships. And the last is a core longing, a message that our heart longs to hear. We are trying to work out those motivations through relationships with bodies of believers or leadership teams. Proverbs describes it as, “the fear of man is a snare.” It ends up trapping us, and we’ve repeated a role that leads us down an unhealthy path.
Matt: So there might be something to having enough of an understanding of our wirings that we can kind of press the breaks and say, what’s going on here? What am I running from or running to?
Jeff: That’s right. And the Enneagram, we’ve noticed a couple of things that’s immediately practical for people in relationship. One, it’s going to help you to give vocabulary to what you’re experiencing. And then number two, when other people recognize one’s Enneagram number or style, there’s immediate empathy and compassion. “Oh, I didn’t know that you wrestled with it that way.” And I know this to be true in my marriage. So I’m a Type Six, and I bring my Six-ness - we joke around, it’s also “sickness” and sometimes “sixyness,” but I bring all of it to my relationships. And my wife recognizes that when that happens, something’s happening in my heart that I might not be aware of. And I can use that as an opportunity for my father to pray like David prayed, “Search me and know me and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Matt: So for somebody who may not necessarily be familiar or maybe just have a cursory familiarity with the Enneagram, how do they take some of what’s out there, what’s available about this and really begin to apply it to their lives. I’m sure the first thing you’re going to say is go to yourenneagramcoach.com and buy everything, or at least three of everything. Which, I’ll be the plug for you so you don’t have to be that guy. But what it is, where do you start and how do you start to incorporate some of this into your daily rhythms and interactions with the team.
Jeff: That’s right. Well, as I said before, there’s a lot of approaches to the Enneagram. At Your Enneagram Coach, our goal is for people to break free from self-condemnation, fear, and shame in order to come alive to the truth of the gospel for their lives. So the goal is not simply just self-awareness but it’s restored relationship with God, others, ourselves, and our work. We have a couple of free things that I think would be really helpful for people. One is if you go to yourenneagramcoach.com/core motivations, we’ve got a free download that gives a summary of the core motivations for each type. That’s going to start to give people language and vocabulary to describe what you’re experiencing. And then there’s a couple of ways to develop that further in how you personally function. We’ve got nine journals. You can buy them on Amazon. They’re called the Enneagram Collection. And then we also have a coaching course called Exploring You which is my wife’s prerecorded coaching session that she does with her clients. Now if you’re looking at something relationally, we also have a very unique tool. It’s called Becoming Us. Now if you go to becomingus.com, that’s the title of our book on marriage. It’s called a personalized marriage plan. Basically you can get a free download that gives you insight into the healthiness and unhealthiness of every arrangement of the Enneagram. So for my wife who is a Type Nine and I’m a Type Six, it’s going to walk through how we can stumble over one another as it relates to spirituality, conflict, communication, family of origin, and becoming our best selves together. So those are just two immediate resources that would be free and easy to dive into, to be able to find your type and to understand what’s happening in your relationships.
Matt: That’s really cool. That’s really cool. So as a pastor begins to embrace this and say, hey, this is a helpful tool for me, how do you best work that out in your day-to-day leadership of your church? Are there best practices that you can use to help figure out how to interact with the youth pastor who’s a Seven and kind of figure out how not to take a hostage with the two of you.
Jeff: It’s very interesting. We strongly encourage people to not use the Enneagram as a Mordor shield. So Enneagram is not intended to be used to defend our behavior, to justify our behavior, nor is it to be used as a sword. That is, to attack people, pigeon hole, put them in a box, or to stereotype. And so, one, I think - and the way that we phrase it is from Galatians 2 with Paul talking with Peter about he’s no longer in line with the truth of the gospel. So one, I think reflective exercises that help you understand, is your heart in alignment with the truth of the gospel or not? And these are the descriptions of, what are the fleshly behaviors versus the fruit of the spirit? What’s going on inside of me? The Enneagram’s going to help to name some of that for you. And by reflecting on where you’re at in the morning versus wake up, check your email, check social media, get in the shower, buzz off to work. Take some time before the Lord to figure out where your heart’s at. And as it relates to working with people, we use a term called “assumicide.” It’s where we make wrongful assumptions that harm relationships. Just because someone identifies as let’s say a Type Two, that doesn’t mean we should presume to know what they’re dealing with. They may have different vocabulary, different experiences. And then if you use the metaphor of a Sherwin Williams. If you go to look for blue, there’s not just five blues. There’s thousands of blues. So when working with others, two things to remember. One, be curious. Hey, I saw this happen or I saw you say this. Help me understand more of where that came from. Or number two, simply reflecting back to them what’s happening. Hey, when you said that, that landed on me in an odd way, but I’m curious as to what you intended by it. That way, instead of saying, oh you’re a Two and that was unhealthy for you to do that, that’s accusatory and presumptuous, you’re actually inviting conversation and connection with one another.
Matt: That’s cool, that’s cool. This might show some of my baggage being somebody who works with church search teams to help them find candidates. If I’m hearing you say this right, it might not be the best practice of a church to disqualify somebody for roles based on an Enneagram number or anything like that. Is that what you’re telling me?
Jeff: Oh, absolutely. The Enneagram measures some things, but it doesn’t measure all things. We wrongly assume that if you’re a certain type, then you fit in certain roles, and that’s not actually accurate. There are situations - I mean, Type Sevens who are notorious for avoiding pain in their life, you would think that’s the last person you would want to be at your bedside when you’re dying, but healthy Sevens are the best people to bring hope in the dark situations. You might think of a Type Five, the investigative thinker, and they can be a little reclusive, avoidant of people, more research heavy. Why would you want them as a senior pastor who needs to be highly relational. Well the reality is we know Type Fives who bring a degree of depth and understanding and wisdom and they invite people into that world, but they just do it in a very calm but assertive way. Those stereotypes actually inhibit the real opportunity that we have to be curious of people and how God has designed them when we use it in stereotypical ways.
Matt: So how would you, if you were to talk to a search team - and basically, I’m asking you this so I can steal everything that you tell me. If you’re going to talk to a search team and they say, “Well, we want to know what their Enneagram is,” how would you advise them to use it? Should that affect the way that they ask questions of somebody? Or how would you advise them to use that information?
Jeff: That’s right. So one, there’s a number of great assessments out there, so just having someone to take the assessment and ask them if they would be willing to share the results. But don’t tell them that they have to share the results. Because on the pastoral side, you’re going to get fearful because I may be a Six but I want you to think of me as me, not in terms of what the Enneagram says about me. But number two, ask them questions like, as a Type Six, what are things that you value in the organization that’s a reflection of your Six-ness? What are some blind spots or some unhealthy attributes that you find in your leadership? In your best as a Six, tell us what’s that like? How could we as fellow leaders in the church create a setting that would help you to thrive as a Type Six leading our church?
Matt: That’s strong. That’s good. Figure out how they process through this and even asking how they staff around some of the traditional blind spots, I’m guess too, right?
Jeff: That’s right. And either to say, because it’s a common reality that there’s some types that just get under our skin. Sometimes if you know enough about the Enneagram, you can say these are the kinds of types, not that I don’t like them but that I find I have trouble with. And we can be very honest about it because that’s one of the gifts of the Enneagram is that it normalizes certain behaviors. It’s like a nonjudgmental friend, and we can be honest and be curious about one another as it relates to our type.
Matt: So this is a question that I didn’t prepare you for. Part of this is me just chasing shiny objects, but are there potential pairings that we should realize are going to bump up against each other a little bit more.
Jeff: Yeah, the ordinary way that we get that question is, I’m married to a type. Did I make a mistake?
Matt and Jeff: [laughing]
Jeff: Or why did God give me a child of this type, that’s another way of phrasing the question. It’s interesting, so for our Becoming Us book, we’ve created 45 marriage courses, one for each couple type. And in order to do that, it was a lot of video, a lot of content, so we had a number of people helping us with it. Beth and I would create the content. Well it was very common as you’re initially looking at these two types together for each of our team members to think, “Oh no, this cannot be good.” And then Beth and I would talk to them like, “Well, you know this couple type. It’s that couple that you know from church.” “Oh, they’re great.” And here’s the thing is that there’s no two types that are the worst and can’t change, but two types that are healthy make a great relationship. So it’s not so much about their type, it’s much more about their alignment with the truth of the gospel. Types that you would think - now it is true that there are some trends of different couple types that we typically are attracted to people who can help us with our own weaknesses. And so you’ll find a lot of Type Fives marry Type Twos. Or Type Nines marry assertive types that kind of get them going. So there are trends, but the reality is two people who are aligned with the truth of the gospel can make a great relationship.
Matt: That’s awesome, that’s awesome. Very cool. Well Jeff, I only have you for a limited time, and I’m really grateful that you spent some time with me today and sharing with this. We’re going to link off to everything that he’s mentioned down below. Seriously, go buy three or four of everything that they’re selling because it’s just that good. But before we wrap up, what encouragement do you have for pastors? Whether it’s Enneagram-related or not. You’ve done this. You’ve been in the local church for years. You understand the weight and the burden of pastoring. What encouragement based on where we are at this time in the world, what encouragement do you have for pastors right now?
Jeff: Man, so many things come to mind. But I’ll speak more personally and hope that it has application to other people. Whenever I went through my first real difficult transition with a church, I immediately chose to be a part of a community that was going to help me with some patterns of how I lived out my sense of calling in my relationships that was unhealthy. And in light of doing that, though it wasn’t focused on my marriage or my parenting, eventually my wife and kids were like, “Hey, are you going to your meeting this week?” Because they knew that the more I took care of myself, the better I was able to love them. A pastor that I was under - sorry about that. Siri picked up my voice for some reason. It started answering the question [laughing]. How fun is that? Who knows, get out of here Siri. - But I remember a pastor, veteran pastor, been in the same congregation for years and he had this quote. I don’t know who said it, but it was, “My greatest gift to the congregation is my holiness.” And your capacity to care for yourself is the greatest gift that you can give your congregation. It doesn’t feel like it’s that way because we’re attuned to wanting to take care of everybody else, but that comes to our own diminishment. As Jesus said in Mark 10, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” Yes, we are to model Christ in being a servant, but we must first allow him to wash our feet so that we can be the best for those around us.
Matt: That’s awesome, that’s awesome. Jeff, thank you for that. Thank you for the time of day, and thanks again for all that you’re doing for the church and for people outside the church that you’re working with. Greatly, greatly appreciate your ministry.
Jeff: Thanks for having me, Matt. And know that we carry the local church in our hearts and we care about it very deeply, and we’re praying for our pastors and leaders in our community all the time. So thanks so much for giving me an opportunity to share with them.
Matt: My pleasure.