Carla Unseth

Ways to Worship

Learning about worship styles and personality

Lately I have been learning about spiritual formation and working to develop a plan for spiritual growth. One of the first things I learned in this process was about “spiritual temperaments”. Many people are familiar with the idea of personality types, and that each person has a different personality. As an extension of personality, “spiritual temperaments” is a way of describing how different types of people worship and relate to God in different ways.

The book “Sacred Pathways” by Gary Thomas points out nine types of temperaments, and looks at each one in-depth. I’ll write a brief summary of each one here, and if you are interested in learning more about your spiritual temperament, you can take an online quiz at the Focus on the Family website.

Naturalists worship God through nature. They feel closest to God when outdoors enjoying creation.

Intellectuals worship God through study. They feel closest to God when they have learned new things about Him through reading and study.

Sensates worship God with their senses. They feel closest to God when their senses are activated such as when enjoying beautiful things such as art or architecture.

Traditionalists worship God through ritual and tradition. They feel closest to God when they are following set structures that have led people through the centuries into God’s presence.

Ascetics worship God through being alone with him. They feel closest to God in silence and in an ordered environment where they can quiet their minds and focus on God.

Activists worship God through bringing justice to the world. They feel closest to God when they are fighting for a cause that brings the world closer to the perfect world God created.

Caregivers worship God through caring for others. They feel closest to God when they are meeting the needs of others.

Enthusiasts worship God through excitement and celebration. They feel closest to God when they can join with others to express their joy in the Lord.

Contemplatives worship God through relationship. They feel closest to God when they can sit in His presence and enjoy intimacy and relational connection with God.

I have loved learning about these because it has helped me to understand so much about myself! My top temperaments are Sensate and Traditional (Intellectual is my third, which many people assume to be my first!). It has helped me understand why it is hard to feel worshipful in my church (even though I love my church, and still worship there – it’s not all about feelings) because the service is not very traditional or sensory. It has also helped me understand why I am drawn to certain things in my personal prayer times. Because of this, I have been trying a few new things in my personal devotional time – one of which is the prayer beads pictured above. I think these can make people a bit nervous because they are used in many traditions and even other religions for rote prayers, rather than truly connecting with God. But, because I enjoy using my senses in worship, feeling each bead helps me to focus on God while I pray. It has been stretching to try some new things, but also a wonderful experience of worship. 

So now it’s your turn! What do you think your spiritual temperament is, and how do you practice that in your personal worship?