Leader to Leader, Ministry

Introverts in the Church

August 29, 2017 | Posted by Art Scherer

Statistics indicate that introverts make up about one-third to one-half of the general population. If that’s the case, it may be that nearly half of our congregations are made up of introverts.

We talk in the Apostles’ Creed about “the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints,” but what does it mean to be part of the “communion of saints” for one who prefers solitary space to process information and relationships? How does that person feel during the “passing of the peace” or if asked to stand and wave your hands during a hymn or to break into a group of three or four for discussion?

Introverts are not shy or anti-social

They just get their energy from a different place. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel they can better express themselves in writing than in conversation. Susan Cain in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, says, “Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.” They simply prefer environments that are not overstimulating.

Introverts can be effective leaders

Though not always outgoing in social situations, they often have other skills that are important in working with people – such skills as deep thinking, respect for others, listening, organizational ability, writing and preparation skills. An introvert may make a good Bible class leader. The introvert will be well prepared with an approach that is thought through.

Some introverts make excellent pastors. They prepare and deliver wonderful sermons; are excellent at listening and pastoral care; and may be open to very creative forms of liturgy and worship, so long as they see that creativity developed in an orderly way.

Introverts need us to be sensitive to their personality

Adam McHugh, in his book, Introverts in the Church, points out that introverts have their own approach to spirituality that enables them to get the most out of Bible study, prayer and worship. They are not hermits and need and desire to connect with others through fellowship and service, but also need some quiet time to recharge themselves. Extroverts need to understand this, even though it may be against their own personality. Introverts want to be part of the congregational fellowship, but they get their energy from different forms than the extrovert.

Introverts can learn relational skills

I am an introvert and a pastor. By nature, there are some things that are not the most comfortable for me, but I have learned to adapt to certain practices in order to more effectively minister to and with others.

My wife says that a good friend of mine and I should do a workshop for introverted pastors. My friend and I know how important it is to work the crowd at a potluck dinner rather than just sitting in a corner with our family. We do it not because we like working the crowd, but because we genuinely care about the people and know they want to have contact with their pastor. We try creative things in worship, not because we need the variety or the surprises, but because we know that such variety is meaningful to the spiritual life of so many in the congregation.

In the end, it comes down to the condition Paul described in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. The Body of Christ consists of many members. Not all have the same gift or personality types, but we all need one another to accomplish the mission God has set before us. The extrovert cannot say to the introvert, “I have no need of you,” and vice versa. Instead, we work together in faith, hope and love, especially loving one another as God has made us.

Art Scherer
Art Scherer is President Emeritus of the Southeastern District, LCMS, and a consultant in stewardship and capital funding for LCEF. Dr. Scherer is developer of LCEF’s popular Consecrated Stewards series and author of the Living as Children of a Generous God Bible studies.