Q. My husband and I recently moved across country and finally located a church congregation where we feel comfortable. Well, almost. It’s a busy place and people are gregarious. However, I am often encouraged to engage in activities that are not appealing and that I find exhausting. Serving at the local soup kitchen, for example. I’m happy to donate food or money to purchase supplies but I don’t want to be there in person. I stumbled on your Extroversion-Ambiversion-Introversion Assessment recently and I score at the far extreme of Introversion. That made so much sense! But how do I fit into a 5,000-member church?
A. As an introvert, you will find there will be some worship styles that may be more appealing and comfortable. A 5,000-member charismatic church with loud music and dancing in the aisles may not work well for your brain. That doesn’t mean there is something “wrong” with either you or the congregation. It just means that introverts tend to lean toward observing and pondering more than actively participating.
You didn’t identify a specific denomination, so I cannot comment on that. If it is a Christian organization, you may enjoy reading Adam S. McHugh’s Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He points out that “introverted seekers need introverted evangelists. It's not that extroverts can't communicate the gospel, either verbally or nonverbally, in ways that introverts find appealing, it's that introverted seekers need to know and see that it's possible to lead the Christian life as themselves. It's imperative for them to understand that becoming a Christian is not tantamount with becoming an extrovert.”
Aligning with a church does not mean you must or even should try to exhibit extroverted behaviors. It’s really impossible to sustain for any length of time and could be not only exhausting but also lead to illness eventually. The Introverted brain likes to observe and ponder. You can develop the skill of observing and yet not ever trying to “keep up” with an extroverted brain. To do this successfully requires that you know your brain bent, make healthy personal decisions about what works for your brain and what does not, and select your activities with care. Extroverts, who gain energy from stimulating environments, can find it a puzzle to understand the introverted brain that finds those same stimulating environments very energy draining to say nothing of stressful! It may be helpful to have a few calm, succinct phrases at the ready, too. Perhaps something like:
- Thank you for the invitation. However, my introverted brain needs a less stimulating environment; or, has had all the stimulation today it can handle.
- That activity would be too exhausting for my brain but I would enjoy doing _______________.
- My brain is more of an observer than a participator.