Introverts Definition: People energized by time alone.
Surprisingly introverts are not necessarily shy or unfriendly. Introverts enjoy people but need to retreat for alone time sooner than extroverts.
Accordingly, personality types are complicated, and an introvert has some extrovert qualities and vice versa. Read this article for more information about personality types.
However, today we are discussing the church and introversion.
INTROVERTS IN THE CHURCH
Unfortunately, introverts in the church often get pushed aside. Like so many institutions extroverts are valued more than introverts. They can be silly with the youth group, bring liveliness to the potluck dinner, and organize a great party. What’s not to appreciate?
Furthermore, most churches insist on “forced fellowship” by allowing a few minutes every Sunday for shaking hands and saying hello to one other. I attended a church where this greeting was fifteen minutes long! Therefore introverts stood alone while congregants discussed church business and activities.
Retreats are another church favorite. Often these weekend ventures are continuous group meetings. Often there is little time for silence and reflection. For an introvert, constant people for two or three days is difficult.
It is inaccurate to assume a quiet nature excludes a person from talent in music or performance arts; thus these ministries overlook introverts when seeking expertise.
Additionally, church groups often form cliques and introverts don’t break into established groups, thus they wait for an invitation, which too often doesn’t come.
So often the introvert fades into the background at church deciding that worship of and friendship with Jesus is all that matters.
FRIENDSHIPS IN THE BIBLE
Nonetheless, the Bible celebrates friendships. For instance, Ruth and Naomi’s loving bond brought happiness to both women. Additionally, Esther trusted her Gentile maids with her plan to save the Jews. (Esther 4: 15-17) Surely this was friendship. And of course, there is the famous David and Jonathan friendship.
Additionally, at the start of the church, friendships were essential for companionship, protection, and growth. The Book of Acts tells us about many genuine relationships, which endured separation, persecution, and hardship.
When Dorcas died her friends brought Peter in hopes of a miracle. (Acts 9:36-42) Barnabas was an encouraging friend, and Lydia (a Gentile) spent time praying with Jewish friends. Furthermore, Paul’s travels provided many unique and purposeful friendships, e.g., Priscilla and Aquila.
But most important, Jesus spent time with friends; the twelve disciples, Mary, Martha, & Lazarus, etc.
Were there no introverts in the Bible? There were and we will take a look at them in a different post; but for now, introverts take a cue from these Bible characters and Jesus himself. Friendships are meaningful; maybe even essential to a full life. Extroverts may need more friends than introverts, but all of us benefit from relationships.
HOW CAN THE CHURCH INCLUDE INTROVERTS?
Like me, my dad was an introvert. He attended church but not Sunday school. The teacher of my mom’s class asked him to join them. He didn’t nag but made the offer occasionally. One day he surprised everyone and accompanied Mom to the class.
Make sure you invite the person. I knew a woman who wanted to get to know some of the ladies in the church, but the women never invited her to the monthly dinner. Of course, she could show up, but introverts need encouragement.
Then make sure you include the new person when they do attend a function. If the discussion is about something he/she doesn’t know about, catch them up. Don’t overdo it, but ask some questions about them and share a little about the people in the group.
Start a newcomers class or a ministries workshop;
and educate people on the different opportunities and encourage them to join in the activities.
Do a sermon on authentic fellowship and inclusion.
Of course, welcoming others is a Christian attribute and not just for introverts. These ideas are good for extroverts too.
NEVERTHELESS, THE INTROVERT HAS A RESPONSIBILITY TOO
So what is a Christian introvert to do?
When I moved to a new area, this introvert struggled to make friends and I felt it deeply. I’m not a joiner and finding like-minded people was difficult. Today I do have friends that make a difference in my life, but it took years to get to this place.
If you are a church introvert here are some suggestions to develop friendships:
Choose one church activity that is behind the scenes, but will allow you to get to know some people. Help out in the church office by folding bulletins or some other administrative task. For the most part, this allows an introvert to meet people one-on-one.
If there is a prayer team – join. If not, consider approaching leadership about starting one. You can invite people to join, but most likely it will be a small intimate group.
Since prayer is the objective, small talk is unnecessary. Prayer requests also help understand others better.
Sometimes I find leading less intimidating than joining. When in charge you know what to expect, which is usually a boon for an introvert. So start a small book club or Bible study group.
Don’t know who to ask? Start with a couple of people and ask them to recruit too. It may take some time, but don’t give up. You will probably end up with a group larger than expected!
Take a lead and invite someone over to your house after church for dinner. For introverts developing relationships one or two people at a time is easier than joining a large group.
A while back I wrote a blog on hospitality for introverts.
Read this article for some other ideas for service and making friends.
As always, comments are welcome – even encouraged. Any introverts out there who want to share there story? Any ideas on how to make our churches more introvert friendly?
Blessings until next time.