3 Ways Introverted Church Leaders Can Thrive in an Extroverted World

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How Introverts Can ThriveHave you ever stood in the back of a crowded room to take a break from talking to people?  Did you have an overpowering urge to turn down that party invitation to stay home and read a book?  Does not talking for several hours at a time sound perfectly normal to you?  Me too!  As a fellow introvert, allow me to reassure you that you’re not weird or antisocial.  Solitude and quiet enable us to recharge so we can go back out into this extroverted world with some energy left in our emotional and physical tanks.

There’s been a lot of talk about introverts lately, yet it’s only fitting that most of the “conversation” has been via articles instead of actual dialog.  Susan Cain broke the ice with her TED Talk and book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.  Donald Miller wrote about having a “people hangover”.  Justin Lathrop discussed the challenges of being an introverted pastor.  These are just a few examples of excellent material about introverts that have been refreshing to see.

An introvert myself, I am reenergized by solitude.  I love being around friends and family, yet after an extended interaction I need some time alone to recharge.  That seems to be a common refrain among introverts. Our society tends to place a higher value on extroverted expression and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

So, how can introverted church leaders cut through the noise to lead and serve our congregations?

#1: Give yourself permission to say “no”.

Our extroverted friends may never understand why we need time alone and that’s okay.  We don’t “get” their need to be around so many people all the time, either!  The point is that you have to become okay with saying “no” on occasion; to take a break even though you may be misunderstood.

I’m very upfront about being an introvert and that’s been quite effective.  Currently, I’m helping organize a women’s event and the other organizers know that I’ll have to go home for a long nap after the event is over.  They don’t really “get it”, but at least they don’t think I’m upset with them or that I’m antisocial.

#2: Find ways to push past your comfort zone.

God created you with a purpose and that purpose will require interaction with others.  Just like intense exercise brings muscle soreness along with increased strength, exercising your “extroverted muscles” may wear you out at first.

I’ve come to enjoy leading teams, attending events, and doing public speaking because I know these activities provide me an opportunity to serve others.  I’ve expanded my capacity for interaction over time and have learned when to take breaks.  You don’t have to try and become an extrovert, but go ahead and get out there to offer your unique talents.

#3: Speak up for fellow introverts.

It’s hard to get a word in during a meeting full of extroverts, but please make the effort.  When your church is planning an event or special service, the focus tends to be on creating energy in the room.  That’s extroverted speak for a fun, engaging experience and we should embrace their efforts.

We should also look for ways to help introverts enjoy the event.  Recommend including an opportunity for quiet reflection during a worship service or leaving a few open spaces in the room for introverts to retreat to when they need some breathing room.  Those spaces will feel “dead” to the extroverts, so you’ll need to explain how that helps some of their guests feel more comfortable.

To our extroverted friends:  We really do love people; we just happen to love them in smaller doses.  A big church event with loud music, lots of people and constant visual stimulation wears us out.  We’re glad you’re having fun and that this type of event attracts people to church. Just don’t be alarmed if we disappear for several hours afterwards – we’re at home recharging and will come back shortly.

We all have a responsibility to use our unique abilities and personality traits for service.  Introverts possess a quiet strength that is just as needed as an extrovert’s ability to energize a room.  Offer your gifts, find ways to interact, and recharge when needed.  Trust me, the effort involved is worth it and we need your contributions.

What other strategies have helped you work well with folks who have a different personality type than your own?


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About Deborah Wipf

Deborah Wipf has a heart for ministry with a head for business. As the President & Founder of Velocity Ministry Management, Deborah serves ministry leaders by helping them to achieve their God-inspired vision without burning out themselves, their staff, or volunteers. She provides a variety of ministry consulting services based on her experiences in the corporate world and as a church volunteer. Connect with Deborah at velocityministrymanagement.com and on Twitter (@DeborahWipf).

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  • Shane

    The loss of theology has produced a shift from God to self; and from exposition in
    the pulpit to psychoanalyzing. Our identity is defined by Christ in us not by personality traits.

    • http://brandonacox.com Brandon A. Cox

      Shane, identity and personality are two related but still separate subjects. The fact is, God, who grants us a new identity in Christ is still the divine creator of many diverse personalities. And if psychoanalysis leads us to conclusions that line up with scripture, there is absolutely nothing negative about it.

      • shane

        I would argue that psychology of the mind is self centered at it’s core, not Christ centered. Modern pop psychoanalysis is not found in the word and is by nature at odds with true christianity. Yes we are unique and diverse yet sharing the common bond of being In Christ. This celebrated mystery is organic and outward. Understanding our gifts and using them for the edification of the body is paramount.

    • Tim Ahlen

      Theology, rightly defined and understood, is mankind’s best reflection about God. Too much of what we call theological exposition focuses on the reflection-which is manmade- and loses sight of the Eternal God Himself.

      • shane

        Theology is not intended to be simply a reflection reduced to the abstract. In contrast proper theology compels and empowers us to live righteously because good theology is truth. We are sanctified by the truth.

        • Tim Ahlen

          And the Truth is a Person- Jesus Christ- Who saves us, sanctifies us, and speaks to us through His Word, which is also Truth. It has been my experience that God’s Word is always powerful and true, while my own thoughts about God’s Word, as brilliant as they are (;-)), are not nearly as reliable or true. It is God’s Word itself that must compel and empower us. Theology– even good theology– cannot be the primary driver, because theology is always a derived and tentative truth, while God’s Truth is perfect, unchanging, revealed Truth.

          This makes theology analogous to the traditions of the elders spoken of in the Bible. Jesus condemned the application of those traditions, not because they were inherently or necessarily wrong, but because people put their faith in the elders’ traditions and gave them priority over the Word of God itself. That reversal is what happens when people begin to call any particular theological system “Truth.” Which is what I was getting at in my first comment.

          IMHO, we haven’t lost theology; rather, we have attempted to supplant the sufficient authority of God’s Perfect Word with our own self-proclaimed authority. To claim that the Truth of God’s Word cannot stand on its own merits without an externally imposed theological framework, or without human exposition is tantamount to calling God an inept and ineffective communicator who can not organize His thoughts very well.

          (BTW, I am with you on the psychobabble.)

          • Shane

            I agree with you that there are many different views on what scripture tells us about who God and how he relates to us. Those differences lie in the errors of man not of God as you point out. Where I would lay a distinction is in that truth can be known by man. God gave us His word in order to make Himself known. Our greatest goal in life should be to seek to know Him more. Once we stop seeking is when we start holding to traditions and worldly philosophies. God’s word is sufficient for all we need on how to live righteously (always a work in progress I have come to know :).

            Theology is not merely intellectual training in orthodox propositions; theology is the vital knowledge of God which is intended to engage the whole person. The study of theology must be joined to vision for one’s life; and not merely the apprehension and mastering of more orthodox facts.

            My overall point is that Theology should be preached and taught. Increasingly churches are manifesting indifference toward doctrinal precision. At the root of this indifference is dislike of doctrinal assertions lest they cause controversy. They fear controversy more than error. In His grace, Shane

          • Tim Ahlen

            I am really not anti-theology. I think we agree with one another on most points– we are just coming at the issue from two different perspectives. “Good” theology will produce all of the benefits you speak of. But I think you will also agree that there is about as much “bad” theology out there as there is psychobabble. And I would suggest that unwillingness to be obedient to the plain teaching of the Word is at least as an issue as lack of theological depth. I think we see many more moral failures in our pulpits than we do heretical theological positions. So, bottom line, I would say we are talking “both/and” and not “either/or.”

            And, apologies to all for taking this discussion away from its original question.

          • shane

            YES! bad theology is rampant in churches today which is the connection I’m underlining. BAD THEOLOGY LEADS TO “MORAL FAILURE”. This is precisely the disconnect in many of our churches today. The view is theology is somehow separate from ethics is reducing it to orthodox facts. It isn’t! Recalling Paul’s instruction to Timothy to “preach the word”. Theology drives ethics, not the other way around. Although i’m not so sure this discussion is not in context with the article. Grace to you Tim, I always enjoy a good discussion in the spirit of truth.

  • Paul

    I think extroverts should be grateful for us. While we introverts generate our own ‘energy’, extroverts are parasitic and gain their energy from other people. So every time an extrovert wants more of my time and energy, they are actually asking me to generate energy for both of us. In my worse moments I feel like saying “Go make your own energy instead of draining it from me!” In my better moments I think: “Okay, you can’t help being an extrovert. So allow me to be an introvert, otherwise we are both in trouble!”

  • meemabeepa

    I would add one more: “Don’t beat yourself up for not being Joel Osteen.”

  • Name

    Thank you!!!!! I feel affirmed…

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