About a year ago I read the book Introverts in the church, by Adam McHugh. It is a book about how introverts can sometimes feel marginalized in today’s mega-church, evangelical atmosphere. Though I don’t agree with everything Mr. McHugh stated in his book doctrinally, I do agree with much of what he said. I am one of those strange beings that finds themselves in the middle of the introvert/extrovert divide. I lean more to introvert, but I play an extrovert on t.v. Insert hearty chuckle.
As a 30 year Christian, church-goer and observer of human beings. I have gleaned some things out of my own experience that might be useful for you.
1. “The room”. I know this sounds ominous, but I visited a church once that took visitors into a “room” after the service, closed the door and talked to you. I felt like I was going into the principals office or worse. I was a practicing Christian, secure in my faith, and also had my equally astonished husband with me. To someone looking for a church home, an introvert in particular, this would have been the most frightening thing they ever experienced. They would have run, not walked, out of your church, never to darken your door again. We didn’t go back either, mind you. But not for just that reason. Just a gentle reminder to those that want to make visitors welcome-in an introverted, computer driven age, where people can barely make conversation without a phone and Facebook, this is death.
2. The over-eager, commitment-bot– You know who I am talking about. The person that greets you and already has their clip-board out ready to put you on a committee. Introverts move slow and won’t always commit to be part of your congregation, let alone sign up to help with Vacation Bible School. (introvert hell, by the way.) Your visitor may not even be a Christian, and if they are an introvert, they will be put off by the eager, glassy-eyed extrovert that wants to suddenly be their new best friend. The introvert already has a friend. They are probably sure one is plenty, thank you, and if you aren’t Benedict Cumberbatch, David Tennant or perhaps Martin Freeman, you aren’t on the list of new ones. (This is more of a geek introvert, but I fly my geek flag as well.)
3. “The Worship Team” Introverts, as a rule, don’t like to call attention to themselves. Especially in the middle of a room full of people screaming “God is good all the time” to rock music. Modern evangelical worship has turned into a campfire sing along designed for the extrovert and modern crowd. Introverts and conservative folks as well, like the safety of their hymnal, a worship leader and a good old choir. Whoever decided that four people standing on a stage performing for me and trying to get me to sing along while they waved their hands wildly was a good idea for worship? Warning: tangential rant ahead: congregational singing is biblical and a church has an altar, not a stage. I am a musician and I know the difference between worship and a performance. Most of what is happening in mega-churches these days, is a performance. They are singing songs that many in the pews can’t follow along with. Music in church is to be experienced by everyone, not just the Michael W. Smith wannabe leading the worship team. Sorry, end rant.
4. Church governing bodies–If you are lucky enough for the introvert to get past the intial groupthink of some churches and they have committed to be part of the day-to-day operations of your church, you need to remember something about church committee/govern-body meetings. Introverts are deep thinkers and sometimes they think slower than an introvert. Just because an introvert is quiet in a meeting, doesn’t mean that they don’t have something to say. I would recommend, doing a “round table” type of meeting, where everyone is able to input something on a particular topic. It may take more time, but it will be worth it. The introvert will know to plan ahead of this and will, more than likely, have something good to say. Introverts have thought things through and will sometimes be the most ingenious and innovative member of your team. Not all people like the Richard Nixon style of board room meetings. Also, to those thinking that introverts are mainly women, think again. There are equal amounts of both. I have no trouble speaking my mind in a meeting. I think quickly on my feet. However, I also like to think things over and sometimes say nothing. I’m what some in business call “bipolar”. Insert another hearty chuckle
The point is, not everyone is the same in your congregation. More and more I see not only introverts, but older Christians being marginalized by church’s more worried about filling their seats than serving their flock. There are many younger Christians , as well, that like a more traditional service. To some, all the rock music, flashing lights and jumbo-trons are just noise that distract you from what you are really there to do. Worship God. Remember Him? The guy whose name is part of your religion?