This week’s posts have been devoted to the frozen chosen, introverts in the Church:

Going to church to worship God — the ‘frozen chosen’

Have you taken the Jungian personality test?

Church life: notes on introverts for extroverts

God has a place for all of us in the Church. We do not have to radically remake our personality style. He can use us as He made us for His various purposes.

That said, church is no longer a guaranteed haven for the introvert, the way it once was.

Elizabeth Esther is an author, public speaker and Catholic convert. Although on the Jungian-Myers-Briggs scale she tests as an extrovert (ENFP), she also has qualities and responses which characterise some introverts:

Extroverted people are well-liked because they are connectors. We rely on the extroverts to bring people together. The truth is that I love making connection–but then I get all exhausted and need to scurry away and think about it for a long time …

I have never flipped out so badly as I did the one time we went on a family camping trip in a pop-up trailer. When it started raining, there was nowhere for me to go. There was no private space where I could burrow down and hide. I literally had a massive panic attack and had to drive to a nearby hotel to spend the night.

The increasingly extroverted church can also be a source of anxiety for introverts who need quiet and isolation in order to regroup.

Another lady, Chelsey — the wife of a Lutheran vicar (‘curate’, for my Anglican readers) — has a post called ‘The Top 5 Things Introverts Dread about Church (And/Or Church Camp)’. It is a must not only for introverts but also for extroverts who puzzle over quieter church members. Her subtitle reads:

Written So That Extroverts May Understand And Prevent These Sorts Of Things From Happening

Yes! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Please do visit her site for the full post. I shall cite two things below (emphases mine):

5. “Welcome! Shake a hand, give a hug, share a name!”

In every church I have attended, this has been a precursor to the beginning of the service. What I want to know is why. There is no way that anyone is going to remember anyone else’s name in the 2.7 uncomfortable seconds it takes to say, “Good morning! My name is so-and-so. God’s peace.”

And has anyone considered what that is like for people who have never stepped foot in that church, or any church at all? I’ve been in church my entire life, and this entire process ties knots in my stomach. I understand the rationale behind it (we want to be a friendly, welcoming community), but isn’t this accomplished in a less forced manner before and after the service, over donuts and coffee? Why do we feel the need to programmize normal human interaction?

As an INTJ/ISTJ, I couldn’t agree more!

She adds:

It is for this reason that I really love running slides or doing some other manner of work for the church during the beginning of the service. Can’t shake your sweaty hand if mine are busy doing something else.

Go ahead, judge me.

Then, there is this gem:

4. “Chelsey, what do you think?”

Okay, look.

I will tell you exactly what I think once I want to say it. Trust me, I am very opinionated. Just because I am sitting quietly in this group of people, listening to all of them talk about their lives or this Bible passage or this idea, doesn’t mean I have a rock for a brain or that I’m too scared to speak up. Or, even worse: that something is wrong with me.

The worst offenders for this one are small group leaders and youth directors. And I know that for a fact, because I am one. Take it from me: if an introvert isn’t speaking, it isn’t because nothing is going on upstairs. It’s because they’re THINKING. And once they feel comfortable enough, they will share. And yeah, that might take a couple minutes. A couple weeks. Maybe even a couple months. Their silence isn’t a reflection on your leadership! Suck it up, leaders: be secure in yourself and let the “awkward” silence sit. After all, it’s not awkward until you make it awkward. Plus, there is most likely an extrovert in your group, and they’re chomping at the bit to get the thing rolling.

I’ll touch briefly on No. 1, which every introvert hears throughout life:

1.  “You should be more…”

Talkative. Friendly. Open …

Again, I couldn’t agree more. We introverts are simply personality failures to so many others: parents, other family members, teachers, schoolmates, bosses and colleagues.

Incidentally, we would never think of telling an extrovert to silence themselves, even if their constant chatter is really getting on our nerves. Our quiet withdrawal from the scene should send them a message, but they are too busy talking to notice! However, I digress.

Introverts will especially appreciate the comments which follow Chelsey’s post as well as her replies. Extroverts might also find them useful:

Tim: … As an INTJ (and former youth ministry worker), I am right there with you on how church comes across. Here are a couple of ways I’ve hit your top five: …

#5 – I remember a pastor once telling the story of visiting a small church where they did the “Hey, anyone visiting with us this morning?” routine, but instead of asking visitors to stand and introduce themselves (which I now refrain from doing) they instead asked the visitors to stay seated while the congregation rose to its feet and sang them a welcome song (“You’re here, and we’re so glad; we’re so glad, because you’re here!” or something). I’d have rather stood and mumbled my name.

One thing I’ve discovered over the years is that these people who are so different from me are wonderful people. I may not understand them, nor they me, but we are all children of God and he understands us perfectly. What a relief that God has all the understanding I’ll ever need!

OFelixCulpa: … Many of your insights are true regardless of a person’s “troversion” orientation. I couldn’t agree more about the quick-greet song time which often starts evangelical services. I have trouble understanding how anyone ever thought that was a good idea! I am quite comfortable talking to strangers, but no worthwhile conversation ever happened in such a rushed manner or to background music. And those “share times” don’t make me panic (I don’t mind discussing), they make me irritated! I get irritated because I know that they are almost always phony. When they ask “What are your thoughts?” I know they do not want to hear my thoughts. In that context, “What are your thoughts?” really means “It is time for YOU to perform an act of humiliation by parroting what I obviously want you to say”

You make a helpful point about how extroverted people can (sometimes ignorantly) make demands upon introverted people which are unfair or just unrealistic. To an introvert, the “invitation” to contribute your thoughts on a matter seems like a demand for an impromptu performance. So, when communication is important, clearly some adjustments have to be made so the process is more workable for people of differing “troversions.” That’s where we extroverts are at a loss, and could really use some help from your side. We can get the point about not being unrealistically demanding, but we can’t figure out how to pursue communication in a way that works for both introverts and extroverts. To us they seem to be saying “I don’t communicate and I never will; leave me alone and do not ever inquire again.”

Chelsey: … Thank you! And I absolutely understand your frustration about how to effectively and politely communicate with introverts. We can be prickly sometimes. 🙂

On Adam S. McHugh’s (the author of Introverted Church, which I haven’t read yet, but plan on) blog, he reposted mine. You can read it here: http://www.introvertedchurch.com. I’m frankly astounded at the level of response it has received. Many people have commented with some suggestions that might be helpful for you when trying to facilitate communication with an introvert in a group setting. My favorite suggestion was changing the question “What do you think?” to a less pointed, more friendly, “Did you want to add anything?” This second question creates space in a conversation that might otherwise be dominated by extrovert thinkers for introverts to chime in if they want to. Paying attention to body language is also important when inviting an introvert to share

Keith: … it wasn’t until a former student of mine told me that church was “sensory overload” for him, that I understood what the issue was for my own kid…who wouldn’t, or perhaps *couldn’t* explain it to us in those terms. We let her stop coming to church with us when she was old enough to stay home by herself, and I figure that by losing the battle, we’ll win the war.

However, more people…more pastors, more youth workers, more teachers…need to be aware of the fact that there are introverts out there and that there’s nothing *wrong* with them. They’re just people who are taking in EVERYTHING and processing it…waiting until they have the words perfectly formed in their heads before they say something stupid or that could be taken the wrong way.

Chelsey: … I can’t (and shouldn’t) sit back and expect the rest of the world to cater to my needs. The world doesn’t owe me anything, and just because the majority of my culture functions on an extroverted level is not anyone’s fault. As I have gotten older, I have developed something of an ‘extrovert mask,’ or a way of processing so that I can meet people halfway, as you say. Most people I interact with on a daily basis understand my personality, so it’s not so draining, but man, doing something like starting a new job or a new small group is TOUGH. Until those people get to know me, there’s usually a period where I tend to feel out who is ‘safe’ for me to open up to, during which others usually perceive me as stand-offish or cold. I try to be as warm and open as possible, but there’s always at least one person who later tells me, “Y’know, I thought you were kind of a jerk when I first got to know you.” It just happens, I guess.

A good thing to remember is that even though most introverts develop this ‘mask,’ it takes time and usually doesn’t really form until they are on their own in college or in the working world. You’re absolutely right about people in influence over young people, like teachers and pastors, needing to understand introversion and its tendencies. The number of times people have tried to ‘correct’ my behavior or my character is terribly large, and it really makes a person feel deficient. I grew up feeling inferior to nearly all of my friends, who were outgoing and funny and action-oriented

I would suggest being really dedicated to developing a ‘hospitality team’ made up of many different personality types. Find some welcoming extroverts, but also find some ‘extrovert-masked’ introverts who are passionate about caring for newcomers. People with the gift of hospitality are usually really good at reading others and at understanding how to engage or back off in a conversation. That way you can hopefully meet all kinds of needs.

It is unrealistic, of course, to try and not offend everyone. That would just drive a person crazy. But I think as long as we try to understand one another more, we get closer to authentic Christian community. It will always be messy, but at least it will be a mess that both sides accept and try to work through!

Karen: Try being a very introverted pastor who follows a very popular, off-the-scale extrovert. I’ll tell you about it once I have it all figured out! (I wasn’t there very long.)

I hope that these perspectives have given all of us — introverts and extroverts — food for thought.

My suggestion is a return to the old days where we didn’t have the Peace or visitors’ greetings at the beginning of church services. We had it right for so many centuries. Now we’ve tinkered with a tried and true approach and find ourselves in a bit of a mess.

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