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Introverted at Church

The church hall can be one of the scariest places for an introvert—but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Extroverted Christian is easy to pinpoint.

He or she is the person who might sing or play guitar during worship, the first to befriend any visitors and the last to linger behind, chatting, at coffee hour. They generally shine with what seems like an otherworldly charm and confidence. The Church loves the Extroverted Christian, and the Extroverted Christian loves the Church.

Undoubtedly, this type of person contributes significantly to the church community. Far too often, however, these outgoing few are held up as the ideal Christians, leaving the uncomfortable implication that those who are more introverted somehow fall short—that maybe they aren’t even quite as good at being Christian. When it sometimes seems that the church is made for the extroverted, it is easy for introverts to become discouraged and feel out of place in a church environment.

Far too often, these outgoing few are held up as the ideal Christians, leaving the uncomfortable implication that those who are more introverted somehow fall short.

The hallmarks of introversion tend to be thinking more than speaking, recharging one’s batteries through solitude and thriving on good conversation with a small group of close friends rather than a large party of acquaintances. Practically, this means introverts often face unique challenges in church. First, there’s the customary well-meaning greetings: “If you’re visiting with us today, stand up so we can acknowledge you!” Then there’s the small group confessional icebreakers: “Why don’t we go around the room and tell the group something you’ve never told anyone before?” And, of course, there’s the forced public prayer: “Let’s end with a prayer. Introvert, can you lead us?”

And yet, appreciation for introversion has slowly come more to the forefront in response to these challenges. A spate of books on the topic have been published in recent months, including Quiet by Susan Cain and Introverts in the Church by Adam S. McHugh. Both suggest that introverts often zap their energy endlessly trying to “play extrovert,” while ignoring their own inherent talents and gifts.

God made many different types of personalities, and He gave us all a multitude of special strengths to use for His glory. While many men and women of the Bible seem to be extroverts, we also hear that a gentle and quiet spirit is very precious in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:4) and that we should be quick to hear and slow to speak (James 1:19). We should use what we have been given, not try to hide it and force ourselves to attempt to gain what comes naturally to others.

So, how can introverts put themselves at ease in church and contribute in their own way?

Develop one-on-one relationships with other church members.

Introverts are often wonderful listeners, and their knack for asking questions makes others open up and feel loved. Seek out church members who seem like they might need someone to hear them, and then do just that. As Adam S. McHugh says in Introverts in the Church, “Introverted seekers need introverted evangelists.”

Volunteer for behind-the-scenes services.

Introverts often zap their energy endlessly trying to “play extrovert,” while ignoring their own inherent talents and gifts.

Silent roles, such cleaning the grounds or cooking meals for homebound members, allow introverts to feel involved in the church community without self-consciousness, strengthening their feelings of belonging and usefulness.

Go to group events in which you can just listen, not talk.

At lectures or conferences held at the church, often introverts can happily sit, think and take notes on an important topic, letting those wonderful extroverts do their thing in the front of the room.

Find your niche, and put your gifts to work.

Whether it’s volunteering with children, working the sound system or organizing the food pantry, pursuing roles in which you feel confident can give you additional motivation to engage with your church community.

Go outside your comfort zone—sometimes.

While it’s important to be true to yourself and thankful for your own distinct gifts, there are also times when it’s necessary to make yourself feel uncomfortable for a good reason. Moses begged the Lord to send someone else to speak in his place—and Aaron did take over Moses' initial public speaking duties—but at the end of the day, Moses came through to guide God’s people out of Egypt. While being the leader of so many must have been stressful for him, he knew that the cause was so far beyond him that he did well to ignore his natural feelings of reluctance and fear.

As we introverts acknowledge, accept and even learn to love our personalities, we will grow in an understanding of when to stretch ourselves to our limits and when to follow our instincts. In this way, we will be able to better serve our church communities, rather than fearing them.

Top Comments

Zaire Krieger

5

Zaire Krieger commented…

Let me start by saying that I am an extravert, I have known this all my life and every personality test shows that. I am extremely good at small talk and interacting with others. I'm always the one to greet the new people in church.

Unfortunately, I have never felt in place in any church I've been. (There were always shady things going around, gossip etc.) It's always been very hard for me to form intimate relationship which is something I sometimes crave. So for all of you to think that the christian life is to be 'easier' for an extravert shows that you do not understand an extravert. Neither do I think that all introverts are the way you describe in your article. Of course it's written with good intentions, but because I'm an extravert doesn't automatically mean that I feel like the 'ideal' christian or that I'm always on the front of everything. I actually always felt like my extraverted behaviour made it harder for me to form relationships instead of just acquintances. i always felt like forming those relationships, especially in church, would be easier for an introvert.

Howie

6

Howie commented…

I am not only an introvert, but I am painfully shy--the Myers-Briggs personality test puts me at "curled up in the fetal position, hiding in the corner"....:0) Well, it would if it could.

In spite of that, I am very involved in our worship ministry. That always surprises people when they learn that I'm an introvert. But as hard as it can be to be in front of people, for me, it's much easier than being AMONG the people. So yes, you can be an introvert and be up front. It won't kill you, I promise!

31 Comments

Zaire Krieger

5

Zaire Krieger commented…

Let me start by saying that I am an extravert, I have known this all my life and every personality test shows that. I am extremely good at small talk and interacting with others. I'm always the one to greet the new people in church.

Unfortunately, I have never felt in place in any church I've been. (There were always shady things going around, gossip etc.) It's always been very hard for me to form intimate relationship which is something I sometimes crave. So for all of you to think that the christian life is to be 'easier' for an extravert shows that you do not understand an extravert. Neither do I think that all introverts are the way you describe in your article. Of course it's written with good intentions, but because I'm an extravert doesn't automatically mean that I feel like the 'ideal' christian or that I'm always on the front of everything. I actually always felt like my extraverted behaviour made it harder for me to form relationships instead of just acquintances. i always felt like forming those relationships, especially in church, would be easier for an introvert.

Michael

1

Michael commented…

I'm on introvert who has been greatly encouraged by books like Quiet and Introverts in the Church, and greatly discouraged by a lot of churches I've attended. I've gone to several, and was even studying to become a licensed minister. The push to "be more outgoing" was overwhelming and did more harm than good.

Introversion is not shyness, it is not timidity and it is not something that God needs to save me from. It's how He made me. Unfortunately, too many leaders and fellow members have misunderstood that and tried to convince me to change.

I don't mean for this comment to sound angry, because it isn't. I'm certainly frustrated, but I'm not angry. I greatly appreciate articles like this one and hope to see more in the future. The more the message gets out, the better we can all work together.

Deborah

3

Deborah replied to Michael's comment

(Disclaimer: I love extroverts, they crack me up and I need them in my life)

Hi Michael, I get the frustration :)
I'm an introvert with occasional bouts of extroversion. Go figure.
Here’s what I’m thinking:

1: The majority of people in the U.S. and Canada (where I live) are extroverts.
2: Much of church life is about ‘getting things done.’ (Good things to be sure)
3: It’s easy to mistake ‘noise and busyness’ as signs of achievement.
4: I's easy to mistake 'silence and restfulness' as signs of apathy.

Add those things up and pressure to become more like the majority in our congregations may have more to do with a preoccupation with getting desired ‘results’ than it has to do with spiritual growth and fellowship.

Introverts aren’t broken things that need fixing; we process information and experience God differently. It’s popular in the West to see that as being a hindrance.
Just some thoughts :)

The introverted singer

1

The introverted singer replied to Deborah's comment

as an introvert this can be pretty painful. my friend the extrovert says aloud the insightful things I have said to her in a private but not necessarily a confidential discussion and the come off looking like a genius when the pastor mentions it in a sermon or bible study. I might not be aware of this and when at a later time I mentikn it I sound like a copycat

Brian Keen

3

Brian Keen commented…

I love this. I am a huge introvert and when I go towards extroverted tendencies, I become drained of energy.

It is very essential for the introverts to become true members of the church. A lot of times I feel like the pancreas of the church body.(1 Corinthians 12) While I have no idea what a pancreas does with a goggle search, it is still essential to the body. We introverts have our purpose from God. I go out of my comfort zone from time to time because that cause growth and full reliance on God. However, I will always retreat back to the solitude I so dearly love. Introverts are essential to the body of the Church, we just need to find out place.

Adam

12

Adam commented…

i am an introvert as well, and i too get drained of energy and stressed when i go toward extroverted. while that is frustrating cuz i'd like to be more outgoing at times, i've came to the fact that my brain is just wired in this way. .

it is hard for introverts in the church because if you don't speak out or speak up, or participate in every single church function or event, you start to feel left out and like you don't belong. .this is something i've struggled with all my life within in the church and even in school and college. .it is definitely harder being an introvert because it feels like you have social limits and extroverts are able to capitalize on creating relationships and networking which will only benefit you in the long run. .however, i feel like introverts advantage is that they are more "aware" of their surroundings and thoughts and may have more intuition or instincts. .

i'm still trying to find God's calling for me and my introverted ways and still always a struggle to socialize and meet new people when all i want to do is go somewhere quiet in solidarity or go for a walk to recenter myself and thoughts. .

one thing i do try to work at is "acting" more than "thinking", i'm not great at it but just trying makes me feel like i'm making progress

Helena

1

Helena commented…

I'm sorry, but the subtitle and your closing statement that introverts are afraid shows that you are not introverted and like most Christians, you do not really understand introverts.
I second Michael's comments: we are not timid, shy or afraid- we are quiet and self-contained. This is not fear.
Thank you for pointing out that introverts are "not broken things that need fixing", but I suspect that you are actually a bit shy, and like most normal or extroverted people, you equate being silent with being afraid. For an introvert, this is totally not the case.
In a place like a church, which is all about fellowship and communicating with others in groups, people who are silent just don't fit in. Like other posters here, I work to find a place in the gregarious church.
How quick churchgoers are to tell introverts to get out of their comfort zone and be extroverted and join in the chatter and go out and witness. But how rarely I hear anyone besides my own minister telling anyone to be silent, prayerful, or contemplative: to be quiet and listen to God.
As you correctly point out, this is a social issue because the US is a society of extroverts. But, I think this blog post perpetuates some of the misunderstandings about introverts.
Thanks for reaching out to a misunderstood group in the church

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