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!