Ministry and introverts: Can they co-exist peacefully? If you feel awkward in social gatherings, you can rest assured you’re not the only one. Especially now, as we have become more used to staying home, there is a risk that social distance will lead to increased social anxiety as we start to re-enter social settings. Thankfully, there are some practical steps you can take to prepare yourself, and I pray you experience more joy and peace as you do so.
As an introvert who has been married to a very social church-planter pastor husband for 17 years, I’ve been around the block a few times on this one. When we met in college, Brian wasn’t sure which path he would take with ministry and was volunteering. By the time we married, he was beginning a job at our local church. Having grown up a ministry kid, my only request was that he would never be a pastor. (You see how that turned out for me!)
The main reasons I dreaded the “pastor’s wife” role were that 1) I knew I didn’t fit the mold of A Pastor’s Wife, and 2) I didn’t want “everyone” watching, judging, and needing things from me.
The first great news is that contrary to what you may have grown up seeing, or may have seen on the internet, there is no mold. (Phew!) God calls each of us into a unique context, and we are each perfectly suited to that calling. But that doesn’t mean we get to hunker down and use introversion as an excuse to do our own thing. Following Jesus is a sanctifying process for ALL believers. Becoming more like Him WILL be uncomfortable at times.
The other good news is that His vision for how we grow is better than our own. It may be a stretch at times, and there will certainly be awkward growth moments, but following His lead to love others will grow you in ways that you might not have thought possible.
Here are my best tips for dealing with ministry as an introvert.
Look around. Does anyone look lonely, left out or disconnected? I find it helpful to look for someone that looks lost or uncomfortable in a group, as at times, that feeling has been so familiar to me. Consider yourself an ambassador of your ministry to help them feel welcomed with God’s love.
Don’t worry about whether you’re going to say something awkward or wrong. Instead, ask yourself how the other person may be feeling – better yet, ask them!
Ask open ended questions. Be curious. Lots of people like talking about their life and interests. Look for a connection or something you have in common.
Ask God to give you His heart for the church. You may be amazed at how he answers this prayer. I have found that the more I know of others’ stories, the more compassion I have for them, and the more I appreciate the beauty of Christian community.
Study Christian community in the Bible. Even among Jesus’ disciples there was disunity and dissent as they argued about who was the best or most worthy – and they had the perfect leader! We can be encouraged that if Jesus’ community wasn’t perfect, ours surely won’t be either, and that’s ok.
Pace yourself. If you know that being socially engaged at church or your small group can feel draining, prepare by making sure that you don’t overschedule your weekend. Consider taking some time on Sunday to look at your calendar for the coming week. Which days might be socially draining? How can you make time to recharge? With foresight, intentionality, and saying “no” to things that aren’t top priority, it is possible to find margin.
Look for ways to gather small pockets of community. Smaller groups or groups of people with a common interest can be easier and less intimidating to approach. Do you love running, watching football or crafting? Find someone else who does too!
Don’t write yourself off. Just because it doesn’t come easily doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Relationships require sacrificing our own preferences sometimes; they require give and take. They aren’t effortless for anyone, even though it may look that way sometimes, but community is worth it.
Have great expectations. You know that feeling of dread before a small group or church gathering? That’s your cue to pray that God will soften and create expectancy in your heart. The enemy would love to see us decide it’s too draining or too hard to engage and just give up. Sometimes that feeling of dread signals that it’s time to lay down personal preference and seek to serve others as Christ did.
Keep it simple. With leading our church and family, we have had to learn to say “no” to a lot of things. Weekends can fill up fast, but if we go into a Sunday already feeling ragged, that’s not fruitful for anyone. Keep your priorities in focus. It’s okay if that means you or your family seem a little odd sometimes. A Kingdom-focused life will certainly look unusual at least some of the time, since “seeking first” is certainly not the norm we see around us.
I pray that as you seek God’s heart and his perspective, He will do miraculous and beautiful things in your church, community and heart.
Written by Lindsay Few
Lindsay is Chief Content Editor and Podcast Producer at Awesome Marriage. She lives on the sunny coast of NC with her husband, Brian, church-planting pastor of Live Oak Church, their four wild and wonderful kids, one dog, one cat and six chickens.