Guest Post: How to Thrive as an Introverted Church Leader

Does attending large social gatherings leave you feeling exhausted? Have you ever decided to turn down a party invitation to stay home by yourself? Does not talking for several hours at a time sound perfectly normal (and relaxing) to you? Me too! As a fellow introvert, allow me to reassure you that you’re not weird or antisocial. Solitude and quiet enable us to recharge so we can go back out into this extroverted world with some energy left in our physical and emotional tanks.

Introverts have received a fair amount of attention lately, yet it’s only fitting that most of the ‘conversation’ has been via articles instead of actual dialog. Susan Cain, an introvert herself, broke the ice with her TED Talk and book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Donald Miller wrote about having a ‘people hangover’. Justin Lathrop discussed the challenges of being an introverted pastor. These are just a few examples of excellent material about introverts that has been refreshing to see.

An introvert myself, I am reenergized by solitude or one-on-one conversations. I truly enjoy spending time with friends and family, yet after an extended interaction I need some time alone to recharge. That seems to be a common theme among introverts. There is a certain tension that arises, however, because our culture tends to value extroverted expression. For most introverts, depending on their profession, this can be a bit of a challenge. In a church leadership role, people expect you to be fairly social and outgoing. You’re supposed to be a ‘people person’, not someone who needs time alone after a busy Sunday.

So, how can introverted church leaders deal with those socially minded expectations, and effectively cut through the noise to lead and serve our congregations?

  1. Give yourself permission to decline invitations.
    Our extroverted friends may never understand why we need time alone. You’re probably not going to convince them that quiet actually reenergizes you, and that’s okay. We don’t ‘get’ their need to be around so many people all the time, either. The point is that you have to become okay with saying ‘no’ on occasion, with taking a break even though you may be misunderstood.

    I’m very upfront about being an introvert and that’s been very effective. When I’m leading a large event and have to be ‘on’ for several hours, I let my team know up front that I’ll have to go home and recharge afterwards. I’m not going to feel like heading out to celebrate a great event that day. They don’t really ‘get it’, but at least they know what to expect (and I’ll be happy to celebrate another time!).

  2. Build up your social stamina.
    God created you with a purpose, and that purpose will require interaction with others. Just like intense exercise brings muscle soreness along with increased strength, exercising your ‘extroversion muscles’ may wear you out at first.

    I’ve come to enjoy leading teams, attending events, and doing public speaking because I know these activities provide me an opportunity to serve others. I’ve expanded my capacity for social interaction over time and have learned when to take breaks. You don’t have to try and become an extrovert, but go ahead and get out there to offer your unique talents.

  3. Help out your fellow introverts.
    It’s hard to get a word in during a meeting full of extroverts, but please make the effort. When your church is planning an event or special service, the focus tends to be on creating energy in the room. That’s extroverted terminology for a fun, engaging experience, and we should applaud their efforts.

    We should also look for ways to help introverts enjoy the event. Recommend including an opportunity for quiet reflection during a worship service or leaving a few open spaces in the room for introverts to retreat to when they need some breathing room. Those spaces will feel ‘dead’ to the extroverts, so you’ll need to explain how that helps some of their guests feel more comfortable.

To our extroverted friends: We really do love people; we just happen to love them in smaller doses. A big church event with loud music, lots of people and constant visual stimulation wears us out. We’re glad you’re having fun and that this type of event attracts people to church. Just don’t be alarmed if we disappear for several hours afterwards — we’re at home recharging and will come back shortly.

We all have a responsibility to use our unique abilities and personality traits for service. Introverts possess a quiet strength that is just as needed as an extrovert’s ability to energize a room. Offer your gifts, find ways to interact, and recharge when needed. Trust me, the effort involved is worth it and we need your contributions.

Deborah Wipf Deborah Wipf is the President and Founder of Velocity Ministry Management, a company dedicated to serving ministry leaders by helping them increase their ministry impact. Deborah combines her heart for ministry with a head for business, including over ten years of experience in consulting and project management. She has a degree in Computer Information Systems along with the Project Management Professional (PMP) credential from the Project Management Institute. Deborah resides in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma with her frisbee-loving German Shepherd. Follow Deborah on Twitter.

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Posted by Church Community Builder Marketing Team on Jul 16, 2014 11:00:05 PM