The Provider personality type (ESFJ) is a highly sociable personality type, with a great deal of concern for the safety and security of those in their care. They give their time and energy to ensure that the needs of others are met, and tend to be influential at PTA meetings, churches, social clubs, and civic groups. They are skilled at building teamwork, and make excellent leaders of fund-raisers, banquets, and the like. They speak easily in public and make excellent hosts and hostesses.
Perhaps the best word for the Providers is “neighborly”—they are friendly, outgoing, and helpful. They are so outgoing, in fact, that being by themselves may be a problem. Friendships matter a great deal to Providers, and they can forge deep bonds over long periods of time. Family traditions are sacred, and they truly are interested in everything going on in everyone’s lives.
Providers are very sensitive towards others’ feelings, but are also highly sensitive to what others think about them. They can be crushed by personal criticism, and are motivated by outspoken displays of appreciation for their work.
Vocations and Ministry
Providers are the kind of people who make wonderful “event” leaders. They are detailed and can pull off very difficult issues, and do a good job of taking into account people’s thoughts and feelings. Leadership roles in Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, fundraisers, bake sales, senior banquets, and the like – these are their areas of specialty.
Few other personality types have as much grasp of the concept of the church as a family, or as much value for fellowship with other believers, as Providers. They make great members of any ministry, keeping the team working together.
If your church has a VBS, or a welcome team, or some sort of a fellowship to organize, the Providers are the ones best suited for the jobs.
Providers are outgoing and have great, friendly personalities. They form relationships easily, and are just generally well liked. As a result, they can be very effective evangelists, because they bring a good face of kindness. The fruit of the spirit “kindness” is a great example of the Provider mentality.
But more than anything, they excel at “putting on a show”—which can be tremendously valuable to a church outreach. One of my wife’s best friends (who has since moved) is a definite Provider personality type. She was always at her spiritual best when serving in VBS or welcoming new couples to the church or hosting a small group or helping organize our ‘back to school’ ministry (where we gave out school supplies to local low-income students).
Providers are definitely not “alone time” type of people. They will always have to fight their nature a bit to have meaningful quiet times of Bible study. Providers thrive on interaction and influence with others; to be off by themselves is less likely to be their area of expertise.
Also, what other people think of them is critically important to a Provider. They may be tempted to put on a ‘mask’ of things being better than they are, so that others do not think badly of them. Having a real, sincere, honest breaking of the heart is not easy for this personality type.
I believe the Apostle Peter to be a great example of the Provider personality type. He was a simple, practical fisherman whose letters are plain-spoken and to the point. He was loyal to Jesus, and bold in his outspoken belief—but his mouth sometimes overspoke his actions (Matt 14, Luke 22). When the church gathered together (both at Pentecost and later at the Council of Jerusalem), it was Peter who often ended up speaking.
Notice too that Peter’s greatest struggle—as would be expected of a Provider—is acceptance of others. He was willing to fight to the death (cutting off a soldier’s ear) to keep Jesus from being arrested; but when confronted among a crowd of non-believers later the same night, Peter three times denied knowing Jesus. Also, Gal 2:11-13 tells us that Peter was willing to eat with the Gentiles…until Jews showed up. At that point he reverted to following the Law—resulting in the wrath of Paul.
So with Peter we see both the strengths and weaknesses of the Provider. On the one hand, he is a bold speaker of the Gospel (Acts 5:29), a faithful follower of Jesus, a leader in the church, a man of amazing depths of faith, and seemingly well-liked by all. But on the other hand, he on multiple occasions caved to public pressure, hiding his true thoughts for the sake of maintaining harmony.