4 Ideas About Introverts To Keep In Mind On Your Church Staff

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I am a loud and proud introvert (okay, not really loud per se). Recently I read the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and if I were actually loud, I would shout about this book from the rooftops.

In my opinion, everyone should read this book, introverts and extroverts alike. It goes through many studies and theories examining and discussing introversion at its core, laying out ideas on how to tell from an early age whether a child is an introvert or extrovert, as well as the way culture can shape this trait.

So how does this book apply to you and your church staff, you might ask? There are several key ideas and takeaways that can be applied to social situations in general, specifically in reshaping our ideas of who to hire, who to promote, and how to lead a team of introverts. Here are 4 takeaways from Quiet and how you can apply them to your team:

1. Introverts can be great communicators

Cain argues that sometime in the 19th century our society flipped from placing the greatest emphasis on morals, to valuing the “Extrovert Ideal” above all else. This has contributed to a bias against introverts at times and their ability to “perform.” While it is true that extroverts likely feel more comfortable speaking from the stage on Sundays than introverts, to assume that an introvert can’t do the job would be wrong. Susan Cain distinguishes the difference between introversion and shyness, two words that sometimes seem synonymous.

“Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments,” Cain said in a recent post

So if you are looking for a new pastor to teach on Sundays, look past initial judgments of introversion/extroversion and dig in a little deeper.

2. Introverts thrive in one-on-one conversation

It’s not really a secret that introverts typically thrive in one-on-one conversations and feel more comfortable in smaller groups. This trait offers a unique advantage for pastors. Often, churches' key leaders are big, gregarious personalities who thrive under the spotlight (literally) and are phenomenal speakers from the stage. Entering into ministry, they likely had to learn the importance of personal interactions and know how and when to dial it down and listen.

In no way should large group communication skills be minimalized; it’s important to have someone speaking who can draw people in and communicate well. Pastors who are not as high energy as others may thrive in other areas first such as making strong personal connections, but have also likely learned how to effectively communicate from the stage.

3. Introverts will need time for recharging

As the rise of personality has increased, the rise of open offices has also increased. While there are numerous benefits to these spaces, sitting, eating, and breathing next to the same people all day every day can be exhausting for someone who identifies as an introvert. Introverts are more greatly affected by stimuli, and therefore need more time to recharge in a quiet space.

To practically apply this in your church, think about creating spaces for people to be alone, as well as recognizing the need for some people to take time away from the loudness and busyness of the office. This ability to recharge will benefit everyone, allowing the introverts on your staff to be more focused and productive in their time alone. 

Cain even makes the argument that this alone time can be beneficial for extroverts. She says that forced collaboration often seems to trump innovation, but that time spent alone with your thoughts can often produce creative, brilliant ideas.

4. Both introverts and extroverts are vital

One of the most enlightening examples Cain provides in her book is the work of Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Without MLK’s voice and personality, Rosa Parks’ act of defiance may not have moved the mountains that it did. However, Rosa’s “quiet fortitude” also invited many to stand alongside her and the Civil Rights Movement. Without one or the other of these two earth shakers and their individual personalities, the movement would have been very different. 

In a society where we pride ourselves on our individuality and uniqueness, it’s important to remember the personality traits that separate us are not only useful but also essential. We need one to have the other, and perhaps we should begin to rethink the “Extrovert Ideal” we’ve all come to embrace. 

What differences and dynamics do you see between introverts and extroverts on your staff?