I'm a complete introvert (shoutout to all my INFJs!). Living in a world that values extroverts, this can sometimes be a challenge. This is especially the case in the church. I don't mean my church specifically, but churches in general.
The church encourages and values things like outreach, hospitality, and group gatherings, all of which can be exhausting for an introvert. I don't not like these things, but they take a lot of my energy, especially when compared to an extrovert. I have struggled with things like, why can't I be more missional? Or, why don't I want to go say hi and introduce myself to those new people that just walked through our front doors on Sunday?
When I went to a Lutheran church I literally DREADED the part where you're supposed to shake everyone's hands and say "peace be with you." I'm getting anxious just telling you about it. Often, I would just go to the restroom to avoid it. Yep. This reaction wasn't because I didn't value things like outreach, hospitality, and community. It was because these things made me incredibly uncomfortable. I would have rather stayed after church for 6 hours and talked to each person individually about their hearts and struggles than have to do that for 5 minutes.
Honestly, for the longest time, being an introvert kept me away from the church because I had this idea that all Christians must be extroverts and just LOVE these things that require so much effort from me. I didn't see a place for someone like me.
Luckily, I have come to realize that God doesn't just value the extroverts in His church. However, that doesn't mean that you should use your introvertedness to avoid the things that God asks of you, like being in community and serving your church. There are ways to do the things He asks of us without doing them in an extroverted way.
Sadly, I think the church misses the mark here. Often times when it asks its people to engage in certain tasks, they're often created with the extrovert in mind. They involve things like surface-level small talk with newcomers and big "girls nights" with a million people. These things aren't bad, but they're really hard for an introvert. I have also learned that when I don't do these things, people isolate me or think I'm "mean." Other times they just don't understand me. Sometimes churches even send the message that solitude is selfish. That one really gets me fired up.
So, I was thinking, what are some of the ways that introverts like myself can find things in the church that might be less geared towards extroverts? Here's what came to mind:
+ Invest in a few people and cultivate meaningful relationships with them. You don't have to attend girls night, but you should find ways to be in fellowship with others. “Introverts treasure the close relationships they have stretched so much to make.” ― Adam S. McHugh,
+ Ask your church if there is anything "behind the scenes" that they need help with. Maybe they need help with their website, sending e-mails, or some other administrative task. It's cool if kids class isn't your thing, but that's not an excuse to not serve at all.
+ Remember that God's church needs introverts AND extroverts. One is not valued over the other. “Let God make you fully you. Rejoice in your God-given temperament and use it for God's purposes. This point cannot be emphasized enough. We must be authentic. If we try to be someone we are not, people will see it instantly.” ― Adam S. McHugh,
+ Put yourself out there. Even if something seems overwhelming for you, give it a shot. It might be geared towards extroverts, but you might still like it and God might still grow you through it. If the church has a need but you feel it doesn't suit your "introvertedness," I urge you to still fill that need. For example, small talk kills me but I LOVE leading our hospitality team at church and making connections with new people. I know almost everyone's name at our church, all thanks to putting myself out there AND I get to help people get connected easier than they might have otherwise.
These are just a few thoughts. The point is, though, that there is a place for introverts in the church.
I would also suggest checking out this book. I has been on my "to read" list for a while but I haven't gotten around to it.
Whether you're an introvert or extrovert, I would love to hear your thoughts about your personality style and how that intersects with the church.