Yesterday we started a conversation about introverts, extraverts and church culture. I told you about Adam McHugh’s book Introverts in the Church and how he contends that evangelical churches tend to be exclusively extraverted.
Here are some of the other practical implications for balancing out that extraverted pull with introverted voices:
- Introverts connect to God through quiet reflection.
We often measure spiritual maturity by how much a person is “involved” – and by involved we mean they should be moving into ever greater attendance and participation in our group discussions, meetings and committees. But that kind of pressure to be always engaged may actually lead introverts away from the place they’re going to connect most powerfully with God.
We also tend to believe that the more full of songs, Scripture readings, verbalized prayers and video productions our church services contain – the more present God’s Spirit will seem. But do you really need a fifth song in that set? What about leaving it out in favor of three minutes of complete, reflective silence?
- Introverts process things more slowly.
A coworker of mine recently unveiled a plan she’d been thinking about for months. It’s a big plan that could have implications for both of our future work. She told me about the idea and then pressed for my feedback. I literally had none to give her. I didn’t know what I thought.
Scientific studies are beginning to show that the brains of introverts are actually wired differently. There’s a longer, more winding path in our brain than in the brains of extroverts. This means we don’t think as quickly on our feet and speaking “off-the-cuff” or in a debate can leave us feeling frustrated when we have an answer – four hours later.
Hearing the full, thought-out ideas of introverts may require you to structure board/committee meetings differently. Send out agendas well ahead of meetings to give introverts time to form their thoughts, allow for reflection time during the meeting, and on big decisions have one meeting to flesh out the issue and a second meeting (even a day later) to actually make the decision after introverts have had a chance to process.
- Because relationships take energy out of introverts, we approach friendships differently.
Introverts tend toward high degrees of intimacy in our relationships, which we usually have fewer of than extroverts. Introverts are rarely content with surface-level relationships and do not generally consider our acquaintances to be friends.
Introverts, when committed to a particular relationship, may try to rush past what they consider to be superficial small talk and move directly into serious and intense conversation.
I recently helped plan a women’s retreat. We tried to create activities that would have a balance for the needs of introverts and extroverts. So while we included times of group discussion, we kept the groups the same throughout the weekend so that people were getting to know one another at a greater depth than if the groups were random and changing.
McHugh’s book was encouraging as I was reminded that God knew exactly what He was doing when He created me as an introvert and therefore I should serve, lead and interact as such.
More indirectly, though, McHugh made me wonder at the diversity that’s available to us as we interact in the Body of Christ. We have so much to learn and benefit from one another’s differences!
Has your church made any attempt to balance the extroverted/introverted culture within it? What have you seen succeed or fail?