I began working in youth ministry at a retreat center and camp facility in the summer of 2014 with no prior experience in the field and with the belief that I wasn’t cut out to work with kids. A year earlier, I had graduated from college with a degree in religious studies, but when I finished school, I was no longer sure I wanted that degree. And I had never worked with kids in either a professional or informal setting (I had never even baby-sat before). I wasn’t sure what I was thinking, taking a youth ministry job. Still, I felt called to the position, and I wasn’t about to stop following that call.
When I started in my new role, I discovered it wasn’t my lack of experience with kids that was glaringly obvious—it was my introversion. The first two months of the job were spent running summer camps, meaning I was working with other young adult staff who were hired just for the summer. They had a week of training before I arrived, so they had all become pretty close to each other. I arrived the day after training ended and before programming began; I had to get acclimated with my team while running a program I had not been trained for. The first few weeks were awkward. I felt like there was a distance between me and my team even though they were very welcoming to me. I didn’t feel 100% comfortable to be myself around them. I was self-conscious about my quiet personality.
Thankfully, those feelings wore off by the time the summer ended, and the people I worked with became some of the dearest friends. But my self-consciousness about my personality would continue to creep up on me throughout my two years at the retreat center through a variety of challenges. As those new challenges—such as singing and playing guitar in front of a group for worship, leading group games, emceeing campfires—presented themselves, though, I was surprised and delighted to find that I enjoyed and excelled at them.
I also realized that I had been putting myself into a box. For a long time, I believed that my quiet personality pigeon-holed me into a limited number of job types. And for a year after college, I dabbled in those jobs. They were all office jobs. And they were all pretty boring. But I didn’t think I was capable of anything else. Imagine my joy, then, when I found that I defied my own expectations of what I could do in a ministry setting.
I might be quiet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get up in front of a group and act silly or get real with my story. It doesn’t mean I can’t share my love of music by leading worship. My personality doesn’t automatically exclude me from ministry. If anything, I think it gives me an edge. My craving for vulnerability, authenticity, and beauty, my sensitivity, and my thoughtfulness are things that are perhaps amplified by my introversion—and they are some of my greatest strengths. I just had to learn to embrace them and to find ways to use them.
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