Throughout my experience in the workplace, I’ve been very fortunate to find that my introversion has never been a problem. It was actually in the most unexpected of places that I found it to be an issue: at church.
I’m a Christian, and I have been going to church for as long as I can remember. For the longest time, church culture seemed singularly associated with all things extroverted—something I really struggled with. This struggle started when I was young. First, I was labelled as the rebellious problem child, who wouldn’t sing along to Sunday school songs and do all the actions that went along with the lyrics. Later, I was viewed as the stuck-up teenager who wouldn’t participate in all the many social activities and outings organized by my youth group. To be fair, I can be difficult, but my tendency to retreat into my own personal space was only exacerbated by the constant suggestion that there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to be surrounded by people all the time.
Fortunately, things become easier when you become an adult (at least, that was the case for me). I find myself not only more involved in my current church (I now live in London) but also actively seeking ways to serve in various activities and ministries where I can. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t really changed and still need to pace myself when it comes to my social life, but I think understanding how much I can take and not pushing myself beyond what I am comfortable with have made the biggest difference.
Just because you aren’t extroverted doesn’t mean there’s not a place for you in the church. In fact, in quiet observation, I think introverts are the best type of people to spot commonly overlooked needs and can be the ones to rise to the occasion and meet those needs. These might not be the most glamorous jobs, and it’s likely that no one will notice what you do (because maybe no one saw it in the first place!), but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. “Pew ministry” is one area where introverts are probably more likely to notice that a lone person is sitting there by themselves, and introverts can be in a better position to approach a newcomer to the church in a friendly and unassuming way. I may not enjoy being with a large group of people, but I really treasure genuine one-to-one or small group conversations, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.
As introverts, we can encourage those around us because we get it. We’ve gone through the pain of being misunderstood, and we shouldn’t let that experience go to waste. Having been there ourselves, what better position can we possibly be in to reach out to those who are still being misunderstood?
The church needs both extroverts and introverts to use their gifts in service because they’re not in conflict with each other—they’re completely complementary.
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