Introverts and Ministry DO Mix: Finding your place as an introvert in ministry
I am an introvert. Big time. I recently mentioned this to a few of my students and they could hardly believe it. I didn’t come across as an introvert! Well, of course not. When I am with them I exude energy, passion and love for what I do.
Then I go home. And collapse.
Misconceptions about Introverts
Just because I am an introvert doesn’t mean I can’t display extrovert tendencies. Very rare is the person who is 100% introvert or 100% extrovert. I would also say that when I am with people I know well, I exert a lot less energy. I don’t come off as an introvert as much in those situations because my introvert side doesn’t feel as overwhelmed or threatened.
However, put me in a room with all new people or drop me the middle of a student’s grad party where I know only the graduate or force me to find somewhere to sit at a church fundraiser dinner – that’s a whole different story. In those situations, you will see me trying to find the nearest corner and dig a hole to burrow down into.
I can give speeches, sing on the praise team, be up on stage all day long. Just don’t make me talk to strangers afterward.
So often introverts find themselves in the minority – actually we don’t know this since we don’t like to speak up. We could, in reality, be the majority but since we are all hidden under our beds, we wouldn’t know it.
Introverts are Vital in Youth Ministry
Whether minority or majority, I fully believe that introverts have a VITAL place in ministry and especially in youth ministry. Who else is going to notice what we in the business call the “wall-huggers”? You know the ones – the students who do their best to go un-noticed while desperately wanting to be noticed. They just don’t know how to verbalize it and the thought of trying to terrifies them. In this way, being an introverted leader is an asset. Introverts can relate to other introverts.
Introverts might need more rest time to recharge, but we have so much to offer the ministry world. For one thing, we balance out extroverts – just like they balance out us! Both are needed.
For those who struggle to understand the introvert, here are a couple things to keep in mind:
- We aren’t trying to be standoff-ish or cold. We probably aren’t even all that shy. Just understand that meeting strangers is EXTREMELY difficult. For myself once I get past their name and occupation, my brain literally switches off. I am not great at small talk.
- We really do like people. It’s just that our energy gets drained a little more quickly when we are around others a lot. And to re-charge we usually need space to be alone.
- We might not physically express our passion for ministry in the way an extrovert does. But that doesn’t mean our love for ministry and students isn’t there. It just comes out in different ways.
- Many of your students might also be introverts. Try to find ways to provide them with the quieter spaces in a way that would minister to their hearts and personalities. Having kids write down questions or journal their thoughts on a topic can really bring out the introvert voice.
Introverts and extroverts each have a place inside youth ministry. Each has gifts and talents that are unique for the very reason that they are either introvert or extrovert.
To the introvert in ministry:
Don’t ever allow yourself to believe you are somehow less valuable to ministry because you are introverted. Yes, you will have challenges because of this. But you also have SO much to offer for the same reason. Lean fully into the fact that you are an introvert and let God use your wonderful gift to the max.
Sarah Vanderaa is currently serving as a full-time youth director in a church located in the south suburbs of Chicago. She is close to wrapping up her tenth year there and is excited to see what year eleven will bring. On her rest days, she can often be found behind a computer writing and updating her blog, while drinking lots and lots of coffee. In between naps, she still finds time to read novels. You can connect with Sarah through her blog at WWW.UNLOCKANDRELEASE.TUMBLR.COM or her Facebook page @UNLOCKANDRELEASE.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.