True Colors: In the Eyes of Our Beholder

Glen Dawursk, Jr., 8/28/03  --

Every church desires the “perfect youth guy” or “girl.”  The generation of boomers with their mindset for “buying” solutions often figures that they can do the same with “youth ministry” in a congregation.  They hire a single professional as the “Yuthguy” and then abandon them to do the work on their own.  I have always been taught that professional church workers can only mentor closely 20-25 people at a time and 100-150 people from a distance.  If this is true, then a mega church like mine with about 2800 members can not expect ONE person to be the superman of youth ministry.  I believe that the perfect youth ministry in any congregation is not one, but a team of leaders who compliment each other’s weaknesses.  Centuries ago Hippocrates identified four different personalities among humans.  When we consider that everyone is different, it is no wonder that there really is no “perfect youth person” but when we have a compliment of these personalities working together, then the team becomes the perfect youth worker.  True Colors is a personality/temperament test that I have found to be very effective in developing this “compliment” among youth workers, Sunday school staff and church leadership.  I first learned about this assessment tool at a teacher’s conference about 10 years ago and I have been intrigued with it ever since.


The True Colors testing was initially developed by Don Lowry.  His purpose was to simplify the personality/temperament theory work of Dr. David Keirsey, author of Please Understand Me and the family team of Katherine and Isabel Briggs-Myers, originators of the MBTI - Myers-Briggs Type Indicator testing.    Historically we find that the Briggs-Myers test was based upon the 1921 work of Carl Jung in his book Psychological Type.  Jung was one of the first modern psychologist to explain the personalities Hippocrates had identified.  In his book, Jung explained and compared the significant characteristics of these individual personalities.  Because of this connection, True Colors and Briggs-Myers are often referred to as Jungian Type Theory.


True Colors has been modified and tweaked for many different professions.  I have created my own variation of the testing based upon subsequent workshops I attended.  Unfortunately, I do not have the names of workshop leaders or presenters with whom I can credit my adaptations.   I have presented this assessment variation at a number of youth conferences and workshops. 


The basic concept of True Colors is the identification of common personality traits and behaviors and the application of how to use them in a particular setting.  Generally I give a copy of four different personality descriptions first.  These descriptions are a simplified description for the ones Hippocrates may have described centuries earlier.  Lowry divided the personalities into four colors: Gold, Orange, Green and Blue.  For my use, I have adapted the following phrases to describe each personality color.


I am conventional.  I am the pillar of strength and have high respect for authority.

I like to establish and maintain policies, procedures, and schedules.  I have a strong sense of right and wrong.  
I am naturally parental and dutiful.

I do things that require organization, dependability, management, and detail.

I need to be useful and to belong. I am the sensible, stable backbone of any group.

I believe that work comes before play. I value home, family, status, security, and tradition.  I seek relationships that help me ensure a predictable life.  I am caring, concerned, and loyal.  I show concern through the practical things I do.



I am courageous.  I act on a moment's notice. I see life as a roll of the dice, a game of chance.  I need stimulation, freedom, and excitement.  I am a natural leader, troubleshooter, and performer. I like to do things that require variety, results, and participation.  I often enjoy using tools.  I am competitive and bounce back quickly from defeat. I value action, resourcefulness, and courage.  I am generous, charming, and impulsive.  I show affection through physical contact.



I am compassionate.  I am always encouraging and supporting.  I am a peacemaker, sensitive to the needs of others. I am a natural romantic. I like to do things that require caring, counseling, nurturing, and harmonizing.  I have a strong desire to contribute and to help others lead more significant lives.  I am poetic and often enjoy the arts. I value integrity and unity in relationships.  I am enthusiastic, idealistic, communicative, and sympathetic.  I express my feelings easily.



I am conceptual.  I have an investigative mind, intrigued by questions like, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"  I am an independent thinker, a natural nonconformist, and live life by my own standards. I like to do things that require vision, problem solving, strategy, ingenuity, design, and change. Once I have perfected an idea, I refer to move on to a new challenge. I value knowledge, intelligence, insight, and justice. I enjoy relationships with shared interests.  I prefer to let my head rule my heart.  I am cool, calm, and collected.  I do not express my emotions easily.  


Once a person has chosen whose personality they feel they most represent, then I test them with a simple word category test.  They simply evaluate the list of words in each row, and then put them in the order of “Most like me to Least” using numbers 4 for most, 3 for next closest, 2 for next and 1 for the list least.  They continue through each row numbering them accordingly.  When they have finished all the rows, they simply add the columns at the bottom.  I then tell them what category goes with which color or personality.  I have included a copy of the actual worksheet I adapted for my use.  I also have attached a copy of my power point presentation. 


After the results have been made known, I separate the groups into their primary color.  I give each group a large piece of cardboard, pencils, a box of markers and some pieces of masking tape.  Their assignment is: “As a group, design an amusement park in 15-20 minutes, tape on the wall and be ready to explain it to the group.”   It becomes apparent how differently the groups think, process information, and design it on paper.  Generally the Gold’s are very detail orientated including parking lots.  The Greens usually only use a pencil and use mostly text.  The Oranges like to draw and use lots of color and are the most unrealistic of the groups.  The Blues always remember comfort details like bathrooms, first aid, handicap parking and diaper changing areas. 


In a number of workshops I attended during the past 5 years, I have taken the following notes about each of the personalities:


·        This personality accounts for 12-14% of the population; 70% are woman. This personality is often referred to as the “Hallmarks” as these people are most likely to send a card to someone.  They write cards and also appreciate getting cards. They are flexible, love people, focus well and like to serve.  They give the most “strokes” and also need to receive the most strokes.  Their goal is to be with people.  They are very introspective and ask questions like “Who am I – Who am I really.” This group buys into the True Colors testing results the most.  Blues are the “catapults” – they see potential and motivate others. They can often be misunderstood for being nosey because they always want to know how a person is doing.  They ask about a person’s family and they really want to know – it is not just chit-chat to them.  They learn best by pleasing others.  This personality lends itself to never having a lot of money because blues are always spending it on others.  Blues usually need to go shopping with other blues.  They want to connect.



·        This personality accounts for12-14% of the population.  They love knowledge, research, solving problems, data, philosophy, solutions and blue prints.  To this personality, there never is enough time or data; they always want more information.  Members of this personality usually include: scientists, mid level to top management execs, and CEO’s; 80% of all professors are greens.  A green professor loves when students argue or disagree with him.  They love debate.  They are, however, bored easily.  Greens are good planners but not the best implementers; instead, greens like to develop the solutions or blue prints and allow others to complete the work; they set the vision.   Greens often question everything; always asking: “why?”   They desire the best answers and are not easily satisfied with a solution.  They find it hard to put closure on things.  They will continue to prove it is the best one.  This personality can multi-task well, but a green will be the personality most likely to lose the car keys or where they parked the car at the mall.  Greens are highly introverted and only take calculated risks.  They do not share their feelings or emotions easily with others.



·        This personality accounts for 38% of the population.  This group turns the lights on at work, makes the coffee, makes sure budget is intact – basically they get things done.  Golds are the worker bees. Without golds, everything stops!  They learn best by instruction and are the ones most likely to raise their hand even in college.  Most church workers and community workers are golds.  80% of all elementary school teachers are also gold.  However, this personality is a rotten risk taker; they like security.  Golds often make lists and enjoy highlighters.  They entrust schools, prefer laws (most police & judges are gold) and like structure within a family.  They are the most family orientated of the four groups.  Golds also make more money “totally” than any other group.  Golds are the group most likely to organize their sock drawer.  They like things to be neat and in order.



·        This personality accounts for 36% of the population.  Oranges do things quickly, but they usually turn out pretty well.  The difference from a gold is that oranges always do it their own way.  They are not known for following rules or established systems.  Oranges are also very celebrative – they are the “party” group.  When they set their minds to accomplish something, they really like doing it.  This personality is also very hands-on physical.   They like activity.  They are experiential and generally prefer no restraints.  Oranges are mostly in creative arts and due to the activity attribute, most physical education teachers are orange.  Oranges are very competitive, spontaneous, risk takers, adventurous, happy and have a great sense of humor; they sincerely like to make people laugh.  This group, like blues, are very giving, but are not looking for something in return or desiring a lasting relationship as a result of “giving”  -- however, in life, they do want to see results.  Oranges are especially considered an organized mess.  Their desks are piles and seem senseless, yet they know where everything is.


This approach to personality testing is clearly entertaining, but it really shows how God has made us intentionally different and how He has intentionally brought our individuality and uniqueness together in a church for His purpose.  Our “true color diversity” becomes our strength in ministry.  What if a church were made up of all Greens?  We would have too many people setting the vision and no workers.  Or Golds?  The work would get done and the place would be spotless, but without vision, the work will seem fruitless and there would be no joy in ministry.  Or Oranges?  It would be a fun place to be, but ministry would become hap-hazard and shoddy.  Or Blues? The church would take on too much social ministry and eventually become financially and emotionally drained.  All of the “colors” are in ministry for a reason.  They are all brought into a congregation to compliment each other just as Paul described the metaphor of the body parts working together.


I have found that when I use this testing, I am able to better place people into my ministry.  I also find that certain personalities work better or worse with each other and it has allowed me to better pair-up volunteers.  I have also found that when I evaluate my weaknesses as a DCE or especially as a youth worker, I can see how I have surrounded myself with people whose strengths compliment my ministry. Their color makes my ministry complete.   Then “we” become the perfect youth worker.  The True Colors personality testing has been a valuable tool toward that end.