Introverts in Ministry

I sat next to a brilliant PhD at a recent men’s breakfast and he made an insightful statement that struck a chord with me: “I think extroverts think introverts should be like them.”

We chatted about the master’s degree I’m pursuing in neuroleadership and about his shift from chemistry to software development. During that conversation I felt prompted to ask him if he was an introvert. He responded with a quick, “Definitely.” After I suggested he read a book that addresses what the book defined as, “the quiet power of introverts” he responded with, “Oh yes, I’ve heard about that book on the radio recently. I’ll have to get it.” As we finished our bacon and pancakes we (started-R812) talking about what it was like being an introvert (we both qualify). Then he made that simple striking statement: “I think extroverts think introverts should be like them.”

I paused a moment and then exclaimed, “You know, you’re right, they do!” Something inside my subconscious immediately resonated with his statement. We didn’t have long to unpack his thought, but the more I mulled over it the more it made sense.

The idea probably lacks scientific basis and is anecdotal at best, but it seems to ring true. As an introverted pastor, yet with good people skills,occasionally I’ve felt subtle pressure from extroverted leaders to become more extroverted. But the dynamic goes both ways as well. I admit that I’ve also wished I were more extroverted at times. So, could this next corollary be true as well? “Introverts wish they were more like extroverts.”

Some church leaders subconsciously believe that introverts don’t make good pastors. Or, maybe they do.

I’m a pastor and an introvert.
I get energy from being alone.
Being with people for long periods of time drains me, although I have strong people skills.
I love to read.
I go on silent retreats.
After church Sunday I want to go home.
Did I say that I am an introvert?

Am I automatically disadvantaged as an introverted pastor? Do only the gregarious, back-slapping pastors lead big churches?

Some years ago I learned that my introversion offended a church leader where I once served. We held an overnight leadership retreat at a local retreat center. After the last session ended around nine, we provided snacks and games. At about ten, I went to bed as was my habit. Most of the other leaders stayed up past midnight. Had I stayed up with them, I would have been toast for the sessions to follow the next morning.

I learned months later that my leaving the group to go to bed offended him. He brought it up more than once. He was an extrovert and did not like me yielding to my introversion.

Should I have stayed up to “work the crowd?” Perhaps. But that incident illustrates the challenges introverts often face when they serve in ministry.

I have continued to ponder this issue since that encounter at breakfast. I’ve done more reading on the subject. It is really helpful to realize that all successful Presidents of nations and companies and all successful leaders of groups, organizations, teams, and Universities have one thing in common. They all have different God given personalities! The reality is that God has “fearfully and wonderfully made us” exactly they way He wants. He does not make mistakes. My encouragement is for you to lean into your strengths because that is where you will discover the authentic power God designed for you to use in ministry.

This week’s article is written by Charles Stone (www.charlesstone.com), author of the book, People Pleasing Pastors. Submitted by Russ Olmon, President of Ministry Advantage, and Deb Mertin, certified Ministry Advantage coach. For more on this and other helpful subjects, go towww.ministryadvantage.org.

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