Introverts in the Church (pt1)

I have been reading a really interesting book recently called “Introverts in the Church” by Adam S.McHugh which is what it is about: introverts in the church. His website is here. The book has been somewhat a comfort to me as its revealed a lot about what I find uncomfortable with church and general Christian gatherings because I am more introverted and find some activities more draining then others. So I want to share with you some of what the book has been saying and also some of my own thoughts, if you are an introvert and find some things uncomfortable and you have not known why, you should have a read of this book! If you are not an introvert, you should read this book anyway, it may be really insightful for you.

Firstly it is good to identify what is an introvert and what is an extrovert. Most people may think that introverts are shy, timid, awkward people and extroverts are loud, life of the party, flourishing in conversation and life. Although perhaps some of that is true, actually it is more to do with energy and where you get your energy from, for an extrovert they tend to get their energy from people and are able to be in social situations for long periods of time and find it gives them abundance life and energy, they find that being on their own for long periods of time is a nightmare and very draining and lonely. Where as an introvert it is the opposite, introverts can spend long periods of time on their own, thinking, gaining their energy from being alone where as being in a social situation for long periods of time can be draining and just sucks the energy out of them.

I wonder where you fit? Perhaps you are a bit of both or perhaps you fit perfectly in one camp. Maybe think about how you feel after long periods of social interaction  – are you full of energy or drained?

I know where I fit. I fit into the introvert circle, I find long periods of social interaction quite draining and things like coffee time at church can be quite overwhelming for me. I love time to be on my own to reflect, read or write. There is also a dialogue going on in my head and it takes me forever to think and speak, so most people think I am quiet when actually I am just processing everything in my head. These are some of the things that this book addresses and it really hit the mark for me and showed me why I find some situations in church or in Christian circles quite difficult. (not just true for Christian circles of course)

And the main reason why it is hard is that most churches that are more charismatic lean more towards those that are extroverted. The book explains this is a huge factor in American churches, but it is also true for British Churches and I don’t just mean the church I am at now, but a lot of charismatic/evangelical churches across the UK are more geared up for extroverts. You may think I am being unfair and disagree with me, or you may be reading this and some of the pieces fit together as to why you have been feeling on the edge of church community.

An interesting quote from the book:

“Sometimes our value for community life can become a substitute for our relationship with God. Psychology professor Richard Beck says that for some churches spirituality is equated with sociability. The mark of a progressing faith is familiarity with a growing number of people and participation in an  increasing number of activities.” pg20

I think there are huge expectations in churches for the congregation and also for the Pastor to be a continual social butterfly, tending to all the needs of the church, being able to attend all the social activities, being very sociable during church time, attending various groups and activities, being able to serve in as many areas as possible, being able to worship in a loud outward way with no room for quietness and reflection… it makes it hard for introverts to fit in, in a way that doesn’t make people think you are anti-social.

Another quote from the book:

“Emotionally one would have to say that evangelicalism is a much more “up front” form of piety, and very talkative, whereas in some church traditions you enter a sanctuary in a spirit of quiet reverence, in evangelical churches you walk into what feels like a non-alcoholic cocktail party. There is a chatty, mingling informality to evangelicalism, where words flow like wine” pg 21

I don’t think this is always a bad thing and churches can lean-to one extreme or the other. Which makes it difficult to fit in and be able to use your gifts in either extreme. What is needed is a balance and space for both types of people, however its difficult to get there if the church itself still thinks Christians need to be extrovert type people to serve well and effectively and the whole ambience of church is for the expression of extroverts rather than introverts…

Tomorrow we will be looking at this some more…stay tuned! Would love to know what you think, please do comment!

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9 thoughts on “Introverts in the Church (pt1)

  1. Thanks Cat that was really interesting 😀

    For me this rings very true.
    I love talking to people and encouraging one another but there is a limit to how much I can do this without then having time to myself to re-energise. There are often times at social gatherings where I have gone to spend some time alone to allow this to happen.
    I look forward to reading the next instalment!

  2. Cat 🙂 This is a really interesting post – thanks so much for sharing it.
    The introvert/extrovert nature of people has been raised amongst our team this week and it’s not something that I had given enough thought to, but something I should because it better helps me to understand others and where they are coming from. It also helps my attitude when I can sometimes make little judgements in my head about someone’s unsociability (this is a word right?!) or seeming ‘attention seeking’ maybe. Both attitudes are wrong and an article like this helps me to better understand different peoples characters, and how I should respect both – we are all after all made in the image of God. Cheers chick 🙂 xxx

  3. I find myself pretty in the middle of the introvert-extrovert spectrum (I’m fairly extreme on the three other Myers-Briggs lines)… I get energy from people and from time alone. I really need both. Maybe I’m an introverted-extrovert… or just a shy and quiet one…
    I don’t really buy that Extroversion and Charismatic go together, more that the Spirit brings us out of ourselves…. charismatic is probably as much about the devotional life as the body life… but then maybe that’s just because the world’s quietest 18 year old (me) walked into a big loud charismatic meeting in 1997 and met God and couldn’t go anywhere else after that…

    • I don’t think it is just extroverts and charismatic churches going together, its also evangelical churches and it is much bigger in the US then the UK. But even if the charismatic culture should be that of a devotional life (I would say that should be a Christian culture anyways) the reality of that may not be true. Just from some experience I have had and speaking to some other people about this, there is certainly a link between the two and people with more introverted tendancies can find it difficult to engage or feel a part of a church that outwardly shows great signs and rewards to being more extroverted. But perhaps that is just a shift in our culture and something that marks the churches on the whole christian spectrum. And yes the spirit certainly brings us out of ourselves, but that doesnt mean that an introvert stops needing downtime/time to think/be away from people at different points in their week. The danger is when we lean to one type then the other… we need a balence and people to recognise that balence (and there being different types of people) and not scoff at the people who are either one.

      • we need to be ourselves… and the myers-briggs thing is (according to James Lawrence) just a style thing, utterly neutral but explanatory. So we wouldn’t want to say one style is more ‘christian’ than another, though when extroversion becomes attention-seeking or introversion becomes incurvature then we have problems… the Spirit draws us out of ourselves towards others in service, whether loudly or quietly.

  4. This is really interesting. I’m much more towards the extrovert end of the scale but I married an extrovert. He usually looks positively worn out by the end of our church services! It also means that he tends to be quiet in discussions, although he has a lot of thoughts going on. I wonder if introverts also tend to be internal processors? He usually has some fascinating insights into our discussion the next day… (I’m a new follower of your blog and enjoying myself so far!)

    • Yeh I think you are right, introverts tend to process things internally. I am a bit like that, I will have a conversation and then chew it over for days and then have lots of thoughts about it afterwards! I guess your husband needs to know when he is worn out and needs that time to just move away from being in a social environment. 🙂

  5. Introverts I know (pt4) | Gospel Sunshine

  6. Inside the mind of an Introvert « Sunshine Lenses

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