The common factor for all introverts is that we expend energy in contact with people and need quiet time alone to regain that energy.
Published on: 09-01-2019
“Do we have any visitors with us today?” the welcoming elder beamed from the pulpit. I sank further into my seat, looking down at my Bible and trying to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. The elder continued with the dreaded invitation: “Would any first-time visitor please stand up?”
My friend nudged me. “Stand up,” he whispered jovially. “That’s you!” I forced a smile to my face, bounced up, and gave the church a wave that lasted a millisecond before crumpling back down. My heart pounded unreasonably, even though I knew and appreciated that the church was simply trying to be friendly. Yet I felt only awkward and anxious.
I am an introvert. There are different kinds of introverts. Not all of us are shy or dislike people, as the stereotype suggests, although many are typically quieter and more comfortable behind the scenes. The common factor for all introverts is that we expend energy in contact with people and we need quiet time alone to regain that energy. Within the Christian community I often feel that church was designed for extroverts, from our greeting styles to our favored evangelistic methods. So how can we create introvert-friendly spaces? I put the question to friends on social media and gained more perspective about how introverts would appreciate a church to welcome and engage with them.
Most introverts dislike being singled out in a room full of strangers, or forced to mingle and do small talk. Instead, I heard some alternatives for welcoming visitors: “At my church we have all the members stand, then greet anyone still sitting.” “I prefer never having to ‘say a bit about yourself’ in a group.” “I would like to be singled out by an individual who will take a personal, genuine interest in me. I am terrible at approaching people, but I want to feel included.”
Being introvert-friendly goes beyond how we welcome newcomers. It affects how we “do” church. This includes validating and using different gifts that may not be public-oriented, as not everyone can knock on doors or make phone calls. It may even entail creating new types of services; one person suggested doing church in the forest, incorporating silent activities, and using the creative arts. Another expressed her longing for a house church of no more than 10 people who share life during the week as well as on Sabbath.
The church is a diverse community by God’s design. As Paul writes, using the metaphor of the body: “Our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. . . . Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’ . . . All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:18-27, NLT).* No matter our gifts or personality types, each of us has a unique and important place within Christ’s body. We are called to create church spaces in which all people can feel welcomed and valued.