May 19, 2010

A Church of Introverts (or Extroverts)

I saw this article flow down my Twitter feed this morning:

Can Introverts Thrive in the Church? by Adam McHugh

Aside from agreeing with the author, I would like to affirm his recommendation that leaders come to understand their temperament and what it means to them and how to greater enhance their personal effectiveness in ministry.  However, I would additionally like to provide suggestions both to introverts and extroverts about how their personality type directly has an effect upon others.

For example, extrovert leadership might require all decisions to be made during a group meeting where active discussion takes place. Meetings might be set with much frequency as they could be seen as the best times for ideas to come forth.

An extrovert might set things up so that working in groups is the primary means where productivity happens, so for those people who need detached time for reflection and determination of their own ideas or positions on the issues, they might be out of luck. "Thinking out loud? I prefer keeping things a bit more focused inside my own head, thank you."

Groups, teamwork, loudness, hysteria... all things that might get extroverts going, but things that shut introverts down.  But the extrovert just might not get it. The world, to them, is where extroverts live and the introverts would just need to adapt.

On the other hand, however, when introverts are in leadership, their own natural tendencies can similarly set the tone unintentionally because they could view the world as where the elements needed for them to thrive are the very same ones everyone else needs, as well, which is just as incorrect.

I love my church dearly, and have spent the past ten years of my life serving there.  However, I myself am more extroverted than not, but all three pastors are introverts. And it shows.

Our setup allows for individuals who have their own individual ministry to thrive, and there are certainly many success stories. However, our church is generally a collection of one-man or one-woman shows without any sort of interaction or coordination asked for or expected.  Their commonality is that they show up for the same worship service each week.

Everyone is empowered to act, but everything is done with a live and let live mindset.  For example, we routinely have various meetings inconveniently scheduled for the same time because nobody is aware what others are up to.  We have had up to five different versions of our church logo on various ministry brochures because each individual can independently decide on how they want to be perceived without requiring any sort of "So how do we collectively as a church want to be seen?" questions be asked.

So can a church be successful when operated with an introvert mindset? Absolutely, as I have seen it with my own eyes.

Can a church be successful when operated with an extrovert mindset? Once again, the answer is yes based upon my observation as well as the general premise of the article.

So the takeaway should not simply be, "Let me figure out the best way I work and come to terms with it."  Rather it should be, as church leaders, let us devise a strategy that will allow both extroverts and introverts to thrive simultaneously.

Not simply saying to an individual, "Adapt to our way doing things or hit the road..." Or more accurately, "Find a ministry better suited for you..."

In unintentionally skewing your operation to one group mindset, you are alienating half of humanity from being able to thrive.

So what can be done about it? Stay tuned for part 2 of the, "A Church of Introverts (or Extroverts)" series.


Harold of Scaggsville said...

Interesting indeed. I will stay tuned.

Abel Woman said...

Introverts... I am learning to understand them better.