The ISTJ is the most studious person in your church. If you have a Board of Trustees (or another group that deals with investments, etc.), this person is certainly the chair of that group.
What are they like?
The ISTJ is the person you know who has all the facts. If you serve on any committees with them, they are the ones who can magically produce that one important piece of paper that everyone kind of remembers seeing that one time and wishes they had in front of them. They like for things to be consistent and they are the ones who often defend the practices of the past because they see such value in the tried and true. They are fine with change if you can demonstrate to them that what is being proposed worked somewhere else. Once they are convinced, however, they will support a change with great vigor.
ISTJs have an strong idea about what makes something proper, and only a little of it is shared. Some consider them to be aloof or cold, but that is a function of their introverted thinking. They rarely speak, but when they do they are clear and measured. They will not pull punches. They will tell you what they think.
Where do they find value in their religious life?
The ISTJ places a high value on continuity. This can be seen in their vigor for either doctrine or the ongoing religious institution.
Doctrinally, they are the yard stick that all others are measured by. They have read (probably memorized) Barth, Calvin, Luther, or Augustine and are uncomfortable when the preacher deviates from what they know to be “good theology.”
They believe that the church has existed for thousands of years precisely because it has not succumbed to fads and trends, but because it has stayed true to its roots. In a similar fashion, they find great meaning in the consistent order of worship that they have experienced their whole life.
They are not church hoppers. They were born in this church – thank you, very much – and they will die in this church.
What practices help them stay balanced and centered in God?
ISTJs are notorious for their inner “storehouse” of facts. This storehouse brings them comfort and a sense of stability. Employing their minds, ISTJs should give themselves to the regular reading of the Bible and classics of theology. To be re-exposed to the great stories and themes of the Christian tradition will allow them to help the Church remain firmly rooted in its faith.
What practices push them to go beyond themselves and sacrifice for others?
One unfortunate reality about ISTJs is that, due to their conviction about tried and true “standards” that define what is good, they tend to generalize about others. Many stereotypes originate with and are exacerbated by ISTJs. Therefore, practices involving “loving enemies” are vital for an ISTJ’s spiritual health.
This could be as simple as consistant exposure to ideas and thoughts that are outside of the ISTJ’s norm with special attention to places of agreement and an attempt to see the logic of the other’s worldview. This practice should be coupled with a willingness to begin friendships with persons they are not predisposed to like.
Because the ISTJ places a premium on “established authority,” regularly praying the Psalms would also be a good practice. The Psalms are replete with many different viewpoints and understandings, and the experience of making those words personal prayers will subtly begin to change the ISTJ’s mind.
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Even though my personality type (INTJ) is only one preference off of the ISTJ’s, I found that I had a hard time considering what might be beneficial for them. My struggle came in accepting the reality that ISTJs are, generally, not big fans of change.*
One thing I believe is that people get to be whatever they want to be. I am not the arbiter of what is good and right. While I may not find as much value in tradition as an ISTJ does, that does not make it invalid.
My own question (as I considered the aspects of the ISTJ personality) became, “If I want to affect change, how do I effectively bring the ISTJ along with me?” One thing that was repeated in the research I did was that once an ISTJ sees the value of a particular path, they are the strongest advocates of it. With ISTJs making up 11-14% of the population, it seems to me that a first step (and perhaps the most effective one a Change Agent could take) in affecting change in the places we find our should probably be getting an ISTJ in our corner.
For fuller explanations fo the ISTJ type, check out these links:
(*This is certainly not to say that ISTJs are anti-change. If an ISTJ decides that a particular kind of change is desirable, they would most likely be able to affect it more readily and effectively than any of us.)