In my book “The Mythical Leader”, I have a whole chapter on introversion – mostly because every time I post about introversion I hear from pastors and church members who talk about how introversion negatively impacts their ministry. And, I have heard from well-meaning (hopefully well-meaning) people who don’t believe an introverted person can serve effectively as a pastor.
And, obviously, as one who if there was a scale of 1 to 10 of introversion – I’m probably a 7 or 8. (I can be a 9 some days.) So, I understand the plight of my introverted pastor friends, and I don’t agree with those who think introversion prohibits one from serving in a senior role. (In fact, in my book, I share some thoughts on how I think it actually makes me a better leader in some ways.)
All that said, as pastors, the interaction we have with people is a key role in growing and leading the church. I’ve written numerous times that just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean I don’t love people. There may be some pastors who don’t really love people – and I personally don’t see how they can be very successful if that’s the case – but introversion is a personality trait. It’s not an indicator of how deeply a person loves people.
I love people. Really. I love all kinds of people. One standard I have for my ministry is whether I’m loving the people who are difficult to love. I strive to do so. And, I especially love to help people get excited about what God is doing in their life. That motivates me.
My introversion, however, if I’m not careful, can keep me from interacting even with people I love.
The fact is, however, if you asked most people in the churches where I have served as pastor, other than those who know me really well, they are surprised I am an introvert based on my Sunday interactions with people.
I’m very extroverted on Sundays.
The point of this post is to share a little of how do I do that.
Here are 4 ways this introverted pastor is extroverted on Sunday:
I am very intentional in my work.
I have to work at it. I’m not saying it is easy, but is anything worthwhile ever easy? I realize that Sunday is coming. I plan my week around it. I intentionally plan introverted moments during my week.
For example, I am very careful what I plan for Saturday night, because I know I need to be at my best for Sunday. It is rare for me to schedule a large social gathering on Saturday nights. In fact, I’ve found Cheryl and my Saturday date days are the perfect preparation for an extroverted Sunday. (Obviously that’s easier for us now as empty-nesters, but I was equally protective of my Saturday night when we had children at home.)
I work out of the office at least one day a week. This helps with my sermon preparation, but also gives me “down” time. Interruptions will always come, but the more intentional I am with my calendar the more prepared I am when Sunday comes.
My family understands me and cooperates.
This is often the hardest one, because it obviously involves other people. The key for us is my family knows me as I know them. They understand Sunday takes so much out of me mentally and physically. They realize I need time to recover from a very extroverted Sunday. The ride to the restaurant for Sunday lunch is usually pretty quiet. Over the years, when the boys were home and now that it’s just Cheryl and me, my family has learned if I have my introverted recovery time I’m more engaging with them the rest of the day. It is a way they partner with me in ministry. When our boys were home they knew I would intentionally give them some of the best part of my day, but they also knew there were times I would be quieter than others.
My family understands my introversion, but I don’t think they ever feel slighted because of it. Part of intentionality here is I can’t always slight my family for my ministry. So, with Cheryl and my time now, and when our boys were home, we had time together where we were very extroverted. (One hint here is for introverted – and, frankly often for men – get them doing something if you want them to engage.) Cheryl and I walk together almost every night and she was say I am far more talkative on those walks than she is – and she’s the extrovert. All this takes communication and establishing expectations in relationships. That’s part of any healthy relationship.
I realize my extroversion on Sunday is for a purpose.
When I taught a very large Sunday school class (over 100 people), every week I’d leave the room as I was praying at the close of my lesson. It seemed the humble thing to do, and I was sincere in that, but honestly, it was the “safest” approach for this introvert.
When I came into ministry and was in my first church, I continued this practice. I would “escape” during my prayer to the back of the sanctuary. A dear older deacon pulled me aside one day and gently, in a very helpful way, said, “Ron, if as you’re praying you’ll walk to the vestibule and shake people’s hands as they leave, they’ll be more likely to return the next week.” I’ve been doing that ever since – and how right he was. One of the most frequent comments I receive from visitors is how they enjoyed meeting the pastor.
I can’t imagine it any other way now. Again, I love people, so even though this drains my energy – it fuels me for ministry. That deacon has since passed away, but I remain thankful for the wisdom he gave me.
I rely on the Holy Spirit.
The pastor who inspired me most in my spiritual walk when I was a 20-something year old trying to figure out my life direction emailed me a couple years ago. He had read one of my introversion posts and wanted to echo the sentiments in it. He said he has always marveled at how many introverted pastors he has seen God call to lead in the church – even very large churches. He wrote, “I’ve been an introverted pastor of large churches for 39 years now. Before every service I’m saying the same thing, ‘God, I can’t do this – now what are you going to do about that?!'” His humble surrender to God’s hand has shaped some powerful ministries under his leadership. I loved being able to email back to one of my mentors that I’ve had a similar prayer every Sunday – for a few less years.
Just as Moses, Gideon, and others led through what they felt would handicap them in following God’s call, introverted pastor, you can do this. With God’s help, an understanding family, and some hard, purposeful, intentional work – if God has called you to it, He will equip you. Surrender to His strength and will.
And, the reward is worth it!