Home > Church, John's Blogs > Introverts in the Church, Part 1

Introverts in the Church, Part 1

As I observe interactions among various people in a variety of settings, I am struck by how difficult it is for some people to fit.  Because of some reading, I began to realize that we operate in a culture that rewards extroverts, and this culture has become part of our church culture.  So I picked up Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. It’s been helpful, even for me (those who know me well know that I am an introvert).  See if this statement reflects the challenges you face in an extroverted culture:

Living as an introvert in a society and a church that exalts extroversion takes its toll, and shame cuts deep into introverted psyches that are bent toward self-examination.  Add into that the hurtful experiences we all have in relationships, and our self-doubts are confirmed, pushing us toward isolation.

Introversion is the tendency to find our way within ourselves, to “recharge our batteries” by ourselves, and to be introspective about our place in life.  We typically don’t find comfort at a small group (‘cuz the leader is going to try to make us talk) and prefer to be by ourselves.

Moreover, we introverts often feel undervalued because of what we can’t do, rather than valued for who we are and what we can do.  As a result, we may doubt whether or not we bring anything worthwhile to God’s kingdom. The answer to that question is that, of course, we do.  But we don’t always think so, and others don’t always think so.

The task is two-fold.  First, churches need to see how they are biased toward extroversion and try to discover ways in which we can meet the needs of those who are not extroverted.  At the moment, I am thinking about this off and on but have no real good answers.  (Introverts, can you help?)

The second is for introverts themselves to become part of the solution.  Isolation is no answer.  While we do not have to become extroverted, we still have a responsibility to be a part of God’s chosen community.  We might not lead things, or talk a lot, but we can serve; and we should.  We can pray, and we should.  We can help with children (even if we don’t want to teach them) and we should.  We can have a deeper level of friendship with just a few close people, and we should.

For the record, I’m not high on the introversion scale so I don’t struggle with it as much as some do.  But neither am I a hard-charging, life-of-the-party, let’s-take-that-hill extrovert.  So I recognize the difficulties that we face.  I’ve had to change churches several times in my life, and visited many churches, and know the awkwardness of having to make conversations with strangers.  And some people struggle with that much more.

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  1. mikewittmer
    August 4, 2010 at 10:02 am

    This is interesting to me. I have a good friend who is too shy to speak up or pray in a small group, and I want to respect that, but on the other hand I think it is good for him and for us if he participates, at least a little. I’m not sure how to respect who he is while at the same time including him in corporate prayer, which is a vital part of the church. Any help?

  2. Brian McLaughlin
    August 4, 2010 at 11:20 am

    But Mike, isn’t he participating in corporate prayer by being there? Is he only participating if he actually prays out loud? Perhaps this is the concern of the book (which I’ve not read): we expect certain things that some people aren’t comfortable with. Being a part of corporate prayer is necessary. Praying out loud corporately is not. Is that right?

  3. mikewittmer
    August 4, 2010 at 11:35 am

    That’s my question. It certainly means something that he is present, but it seems even better for him and for us if he stretched a little and prayed out loud (not every time but on occasion). I haven’t forced the issue, probably because I agree with the premise of the book, but it seems that this could be a “growth area” for him.

  4. John Lemke
    August 5, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Mike, what strikes me is that we assume that praying out loud would be a growth area for a natural introvert, but we never say meditation or silence is a growth area for an extrovert. That’s the bias the book speaks of: our churches are geared toward rewarding extroverts for their natural talents, and prodding introverts to get with the program.

    My struggle is trying to figure out the ways in which introverts can actively participate in the body while still being the person they are designed to be.

  5. Vic
    August 8, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Wow! I’ve always felt this was a subject that was sadly left out of our Bibles. I am so happy that someone FINALLY wrote such a thought-provoking and ESSENTIAL issue of the church today. I am also waiting on a book about reaching those who don’t like Pot-Lucks. These poor people are left out in the cold…there must be some way to reach these people! I think we need to be extra sensitive to their needs and meet them where they are in order for them to grow in the “rethinking” of our church. It is INSANE the way these “introverts” and the “pot-luck pissers” have been so left out of the God’s dream for the churches. These other churches who talk about the four functions of the church (including prayer) need to be ashamed of themselves expecting people to follow God’s Word. It’s about time there’s a book addressing this VITAL issue! It’s time to reach these people by reinventing Jesus into the RIGHT brand of faith. We need to question and tweak to meet the needs of the people always!!!

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