I was already long into my ministry when I realized I was a full-blown introvert. I’m a classic case — become de-energized in big groups, re-fuel by being away from people.
I think there are a lot of misconceptions about introverts in ministry. I don’t think it’s impossible to be an introvert and also a really good pastor. In fact, I believe we need introverts. Not only are they good thinkers, but they are really good connectors too. While extroverts can seem to be the most exciting person at a party, sometimes introverts have an ability to connect with a person one-on-one that an extrovert lacks.
So how does an introvert manage his life as a pastor?
First, you have to understand yourself.
I had to realize I was an introvert before I could do anything about it. It’s been a process of self-discovery for me to develop a system and strategy that works. That process doesn’t always go seamlessly, but pastors who don’t know their own tendencies run a high risk of burning out.
If you don’t know your social tendencies there are many personality tests that can point you in the right direction. Take these tests and use the information to help guide you in the way you do your job, not to tell you what job you have to do.
You don’t have to quit your job just because you’re an introvert!
Second, set good expectations of yourself as an introvert.
Be open with your staff, and even your congregation, about this part of you. Explain that you care about people but need time by yourself. Educate them. Also, ask people who work with or near you: Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Share about yourself and learn about others. Start the conversations.
This will help you set good boundaries with each other, and good boundaries establish strong partnerships.
Finally, organize your own social calendar.
You cannot be all things to all people, or you will be nothing to anybody. Even if you are an extrovert, the same is true. You have to be realistic about your practical needs and do what you can to meet those needs. Here are some really practical things I’ve done.
Schedule down-time for yourself on trips.
There are often people who want to meet with me in other cities. I like to honor their requests, but my travel schedule is also demanding. I have to take good care of myself, or I will get sick or depressed.
Take an extrovert with you to meetings.
I started doing this years ago so that I’m not the one primarily responsible for driving the conversation. When the pressure is off, it actually makes it easier to contribute my ideas. This is all part of building a teamof people who help cover my weaknesses.
Plan days and times during your work week to be by yourself and think or study.
These are the practical steps you have to take to care for yourself so that you can continue your ministry.
Finally, connecting with people is a skill. And like any skill, this is a skill you can learn.