Introverts and Extroverts at Church

I’ve been slowly reading a book called Introverts in the Church by Adam S. McHugh. As an introvert myself, I’ve found it to be a fantastic book. Every few pages there’s some anecdote that has me nodding along and saying, “Yes! I’ve been there!” I’m also finding that whenever I mention this book in Christian company the introverts in the room start to perk up and want to know more.

One thing that this book is instilling in my heart is that the church direly needs people spanning the spectrum of personality type. Right now the Church—in the United States at least—seems to prize the extrovert personality as the one true personality type. From what we call the ideal pastor down to how we teach people to evangelize, it’s primarily an extroverts game. It’s a shame though because that philosophy in turn makes it harder for some of the Church’s members to feel they can utilize their gifts effectively for the kingdom.

I don’t have a grand conclusion (after all, I’m not done with the book), but I did want to ask a few questions while they’re fresh on my mind.

For everyone: think about how your church practices openness to the variety of personalities walking through the door. Take a basic example: the time before and after church. Do you create a place for the contemplative person to prepare for worship? Or is it set up like a mixer? (If you’ve never thought of this before, have you ever wondered why some portion of the congregation tends to show up late and leave early?)

For the introverts reading this: what are some ways you feel like the church has supported you? We could come up with negative stories all day long, but I think it’s important to call out ways in which the church has been successful.

2 Responses to “Introverts and Extroverts at Church”

  • Wow, it’s refreshing to hear that a book like this even exists. I never considered the possibility that there was any kind of Christian other than an extroverted Christian, so I thought that I was doing something wrong, or that I had a handicap that had to be overcome.

    I think this tendency to value extroverts over introverts is of a piece with the church’s love for big, dramatic testimonies. People want to hear, and the church heavily promotes, epic, crash-and-burn stories of debauchery with a little Jesus at the end. If you were saved at a young age and stayed in the faith, plugging along the narrow path, that’s a big yawner. Unless you went to some exotic and/or dangerous land as a missionary, then we all want to hear about that too. Those stories are good and valuable, but this is another case where the church gets captivated by big personalities, and that may be to the detriment of the rest of the body.

    • Chris says:

      “I never considered the possibility that there was any kind of Christian other than an extroverted Christian, so I thought that I was doing something wrong, or that I had a handicap that had to be overcome.”

      Ditto! Definitely track down a copy of the book and read a few pages, it’s worth it just to know that you’re not alone in that feeling and that’s decidedly not true!

      Oh, and thanks for popping in and taking time to comment!

  • Christina says:

    I definately just saw this book at the bookstore yesterday! I did “perk up.” I think that as we realize & God reveals to us more and more what unity in the body of Christ looks like, we are freer to be ourselves (extrovert or not), and to use our skills in the unique way God calls us. I think we do need to make a place in the church for the variety of people that exist. I am creative – and I know that most churches neither accept nor understand that (large) part of me. As we make spaces for the contemplative as well as the exhuberant expressive, as we extend our hand to people who are different as well as the same as ourselves and as we make moves to understand and accept each other in community, it will become less important to fit moulds or imposed expectations.

  • The church we go to offers a mix for both personality types — there is a connection center where you can get coffee/bagels before the service and chat with other visitors. In the connection center there is a tiny “book store” set up, and this is great for more introverted people who want to be around others — who knows, maybe I’ll meet someone — but it isn’t feeling forced. There’s also the option to come and take a seat directly.

    Interesting topic to ponder.