Aug 312012
 

I know you’re exhausted. That day of worship service, Sunday School, service project and small group has left you drained.

And you feel needy. And misunderstood. Or is it just me?

People think you’re shy. Or weird. Or selfish. Or that you hate people.

The truth is, you may not be the least bit shy, we’re all a little weird, wanting alone time isn’t selfish and you love people deeply (you simply need to recharge by yourself).

But you find yourself hiding the desire to hide, the need to be alone. You feel obligated to explain why the thought of another church activity is overwhelming. You make up socially acceptable, godly sounding excuses when the truth is you just can’t handle any more interaction: God didn’t make you the Energizer Christian.

You crave deep friendship but sometimes feel awkward during shake-everybody’s-hand time on Sunday morning. You wonder what people would think if you told them that sometimes the thought of a Sunday school party followed up with a birthday party for your child’s friend makes you want to run home, put on your pjs and hide under your covers.

I get it introvert, I really do. And you’re not alone. There are many of us out here – we’ve just gotten good at plastering on smiles and pretending that we too find navigating multiple conversations with practical strangers effortless when the truth is we can barely manage to clap during a worship song.

We pretend because we’re afraid if we are who God made us to be, we’ll be rejected.

But the truth, oh introverted one? Your desire to be on the outskirts of the party, allows you to connect with the one who feels left out. Your need for alone time makes it natural for you to study, to reflect, to grow closer to our Savior. Your evangelism style may not move you to knock on doors but when your coworker who you’ve faithfully and quietly befriended goes through a crisis, she’ll know where to turn. And your willingness to simply be who you are helps keep other introverts from rejecting our (generally) extraverted church culture.

And I know you might wish you were a more of a jump-up-and-down-in-excitement kind of Christian. Or that you had the endless energy to go from activity to activity; that your limits were less restricting.

But let’s not wish for that. Let’s be happy for our extraverted partners in the Gospel but deeply satisfied with how God made us.

Where do you fall on the introvert/extravert continuum? How does that affect your church life?

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 Posted by at 12:01 am

  15 Responses to “An Open Letter to Introverts in the Church”

  1. I was talking to a friend the other about this exact thing! I have learned to be really outgoing in church (years of pastor/missionary kids comes into play!). It actaully doesn’t bother me to go up to strangers and welcome them and I do believe that I need to do that even if it isn’t easy.

    However, we were laughing because there comes a point when suddenly I’ve had enough, and I’ll say to my husband: “Let’s go. NOW” :)

    • Yes. I can relate to the it’s time to go NOW scenario. :) And I agree that it’s important to get out of our comfort zones and I have learned to be more outgoing at church. Thanks for adding your experience.

    • “I do believe that I need to do that even if it isn’t easy.” I agree with this also. And I plan to write a follow-up post next week about the importance of not using our personalities as an excuse for poor behavior…

  2. Very helpful post, especially outlining the benefits of introversion in the church, I think this is often ignored. It’s difficult because it seems some people think that if your evangelism style isn’t knocking on doors, you’re doing something wrong. Of course there’s nothing wrong with knocking on doors, but it’s not necessarily the only/best way especially for us introverted folk.

  3. I also find my extroverted church to be a struggle for my introverted/emotionally sensitive self. I’ve found that teaching Sunday school (for preschoolers!) twice a month gives me a break from the overstimulation of the worship service.

  4. A comforting read Steph. My husband is the worship leader, and I’m on stage singing too, so we aren’t involved in the “shake hands and greet one another” time, and we’re slow to get off stage at the end of service to greet everyone as they’re walking out the door. We also have two children in their classes, and the teachers appreciate the parents to be “timely” in picking them up. This pretty much puts us in the “pack and bolt” category for post-service. It’s a shame too because greeting new people is something I want to be better at and more comfortable with.

    On the other hand, my husband is an elder and we frequently have people over for dinner. So while my stranger greetings aren’t my sharpest tool, I’ve gotten pretty good at having the one-on-one conversations at the dinner table. I’m thankful for that too.

    • One-one-one conversations are definitely more my thing than the big Sunday morning crowd. I love to get to know people on a deeper level and inviting people into our homes is great way to establish community.

  5. A comforting post to read! I’m a definite introvert who recently started taking two preschoolers to a new church on my own (my husband works on Sundays), and it can be a serious emotional challenge! Walking through the door alone with two littles that first morning was terrifying! Those warm greetings and handshakes really did make all the difference that day – and every day since. The “shake hands with someone else” part of the service is indeed my least favorite, but it is important to me to know and become known in this community, so I gladly make myself step out into the aisle and say hello to a few people. I do appreciate that getting the kids from nursery and heading home for lunch allows me to skip out on the conversation over refreshments at the end of the service without seeming disinterested or unfriendly, though.

    But you know, it isn’t just the intense social gathering of Sunday morning that exhausts me. Many people I know – especially with little kids – seem to believe that if you’re busy all the time you must be doing something good and exciting. Do more, be more seems to be the general atmosphere. And it’s when I slip into the current of that stream of thinking that I get really overwhelmed and exhausted. If I can sustain a rhythm of daily life that balances out between the social interaction I want (or kids want) and the solitude I need, I’m great.

    So, I have found that the rhythm of our week has changed a lot since we began regularly attending church. I seem to intentionally build in “at home to recharge” days so I can make sure my energy stores are full by the time Sunday comes around (so I don’t want to stay in bed in my pj’s instead of shaking those hands). If I participate in parties or playdates during the week, I try to give myself at least a day in between each one to recharge. I also try to be honest with people about needing a “day of rest at home.” As I try to become the person God made me to be, I think being honest about who I am, while extremely difficult at times, is also extremely important… but that’s another topic, isn’t it?

    Again, thanks for the thoughtful post!

    • I’m so glad you’ve found a church family to be a part of. :) It’s definitely difficult to get little ones to church by yourself. And yes, I think it’s a systemic problem in our culture (church subculture included) that to do more is to be more. It sounds like you’ve come up with a great rhythm to help you “become the person God made [you] to be” while being “honest about who [you] are.” I agree – extremely important.

  6. [...] week I wrote an open letter to introverts in the church (I, too, am an introvert). I mentioned some of the misunderstandings people have about introverts [...]

  7. [...] An open letter to introverts in the church [...]

  8. My mother was a type of introvert. She taught Sunday School from time to time, and was a Pastor’s wife most of her life, but it was very uncomfortable for her to be in someone’s face. Her biggest ministry seemed to come on those one-on-one experiances with a roommate she had in the hospital, the nurse at the doctors office, the check-out clerk at the grocery. Quietly proclaimer her faith in, and love for Christ through action and care for others.

  9. […] the snowflakes. Yet we so often push everyone to look the same. The truth is, we all have different personalities, needs and preferences. Since it’s so easy to feel guilty about how we’re wired or push […]

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