14 Ways to Handle a Christian Introvert

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Introverts are all around! Ministry tips from an introvert insider.

If you ever met me, you would think I was an extrovert—I preach, I lead praise, I talk to everyone, I talk too much and you can hear me laughing from across the street—but I am a full-blooded introvert.

If it were up to me, I’d rather be in my boxers all day eating Godiva while browsing food photo blogs and bothering my dog and cracking up at YouTube videos of Whose Line Is It Anyway and leaving dry ironic comments all over Facebook while reading the latest theory on how Sherlock survived the second season finale. 

I intensely guard my personal space and my private life. It takes a herculean effort to step outside my comfort zone and interact with messy, fleshy, real-live human beings.

Here’s how you handle us.

1. In a small group or Bible study or cell meeting, do NOT make us talk.

Introverts are much more methodical and tend to process things In a group discussion, our silence doesn’t mean we’re not listening.

We’re just trying to fit the pieces together in our own head. We aim to be thoughtful and deliberate.

Please be sensitive to our secret mind palace. We’ll talk when we dang well feel like it.

2. We just don’t sing like the front row.

It’s great that extroverts can freely express themselves during worship time.

But introverts sometimes just read the lyrics, connect inwardly and keep their hands inside the vehicle. If you see us raising even one hand and singing a few words, we are seriously pushing the gas pedal all the way to the floor.

3. Do not ever rebuke us in public.

Or you and I are done. Forever. You should never do this anyway.

4. Extroverts: be patient in conversation and don’t treat my every word like your personal victory.

Extroverts, it’s OK if you monopolize the conversation. We do like to listen.

But please don’t treat us like your personal project with a precious pearl inside. And don’t try to squeeze out my life story as if you’re trying to save us. Earn trust by being a friend first.

Unlike extroverts, we’re not good at being best friends on the first day.

5. Fellow introverts: Find us quickly.

See me standing awkwardly on the side of the sanctuary watching everyone else have fun? Hurry up and find me so we can make amusing sarcastic comments about life and possibly grow a lifelong spiritual bond these extroverts can’t understand.

JS Park Former atheist/agnostic, fifth degree black belt, recovered porn addict, and youth pastor in Tampa, FL. B.A. in Psychology from USF and a MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Have a German shepherd named Rosco, can eat five lbs. of steak in one sitting, and gave away half my salary this year to fight human trafficking. I blog regularly on my main site and my Tumblr for struggling Christians.

More from JS Park or visit JS at http://jsparkblog.com/

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  • Hana

    Nice insight into introversion. I just want to say though that everyone has a bit of introverted aspects to their personality. It’s not so simple as an extrovert vs introvert world, especially in the church setting.

    I’ll be honest, I am an extrovert. Always has, always will, but there are situations when I do find the need to be silent. Although, I will admit when most people find me quiet, it’s always under the assumption that something is wrong. It’s not always the case. I, too, like the company of books and solitude, but I love, love talking, building relationships, and sharing what I love with others as well. I think inherently people have different parts of their person and it’s not an either-or situation.

    It makes me sad when people assume that extroverted people are less introspective, less perceptive of other peoples feelings, and have little regard for personal space. Can we all just be brothers and sisters in Christ and deal with each person as they are, instead of having broad generalizations according to their supposed personality type? I think the we all should make allowances for everyone in the Body of Christ, regardless whether they are introverted or extroverted. We need be more forgiving and loving of each other. To write something that puts the weight of responsibility to extroverts for persecuting the introverts is something I don’t find healthy at all. Everyone has a role to play. It’s up to the person to wait for the anointing of the Holy Spirit to find their gifts and use them to the best of their abilities.

    While I applaud your bravery in sharing how to handle a Christian introvert, we must remember that as one Body, we must be in unity in glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ, whatever persuasion we may be.

    God bless you!

    • sincerely

      I like your point even though I think the reason for categorizing is to show those who ask why we have behaved a certain way, but yes everyone has degrees of both I’m sure.

  • Greg

    As an introvert myself let me say that you hit the nail right on the head. What people often don’t understand is that from the time you are young people, especially parents often try to push you into being more outgoing. They force you into things that you are horrified to do (such as sing in the childrens choir, ugh). All this does is cause you to to withdraw further. We recognize that extroverts have their problems too however they are never pushed into being introverts. God can and does use all personality types. We just have to remember not to try to force everyone into the mold we think they should be in. Again great article!

    • Lyonet

      Would just point out that there are many situations that extroverts are “pushed” into being introverts. When the boss, an introvert, said “Don’t speak, no one wants to hear what you have to say” this is what was happening. Just one example.

      • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

        Demanding you to be quiet is not forcing you to be an introvert. Maybe demanding from you to think before you speak would be a much better example. There is a book out in Switzerland titled: how can I know what I think if I do not hear me say it first. True extrovert. ;)

        • Lyonet

          Demand and force seem to be stronger words than I used in my comment, although Greg does use the word “force.”

          • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

            Not my first language – sorry if I was to strong. This happens if an introvert gets comfortable ;)

          • Lyonet

            Would German be your first language? Just guessing by the surname. I am glad that you are comfortable discussing this, though.

          • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

            Swiss German is my first language, Lyonet.

            I have a long way behind me. As an introvert I chose to use my intellect to control my environment, talking became my method of shaping my world. I talked about things that I felt comfortable in – like math, computer sciences, theology – and left little room for others to contribute. Rarely others felt comfortable in this, rather lectured.

            When people have to categorize me, they will put me in the extrovert compartment. Yet it was just my way of not letting anybody in too much, keeping my privacy in an environment that is predominantly extrovert and cherishes extroverts as godly – charismatic church.

            On the other hand I worked for a 5-people company in IT as a computer programmer and software architect. It was great – we usually did not talk a word, and if we did, it was work connected. Only during our lunch breaks our extrovert boss made us eat and talk together – resulting in rather awkward situations.

            Now I am self employed, becoming a writer. I have found my ways of communication. Writing, teaching, co-pastoring. Thanks to Christ I can push my boundaries without sacrificing my personality.

          • Lovingthelight

            Thanks for sharing your story. It helps me understand introverts better.

          • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

            Your welcome. More about introverts from Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts. TED talk, book, blog.

    • Manana

      Greg, I completely agree. The things you refer to definitely happened to me. It took me so long to realize that I am not meant for music performance because I had been pushed into it by others for so long. I hate being on stage in front of everyone, unless I have a speech fully rehearsed and memorized. I’m always going back to 1 Cor 12; it is such a reassuring passage for me.

      • sincerely

        I Love being on stage, just not singing solo even though people try to push me into it.

  • Calum

    Thank you for this post. As a fellow introvert I value this kind of insight provided. Yet as a charismatic introvert I’d be the first to raise my hands in worship – music touches me deeply and I do feel the need to respond with by body. It is interesting to note that Myers-Briggs defines 8 different types of Introverts, so it is hard to box us. However thank you for making others more aware of how an introvert may think and act.

    • sincerely

      This is so true, as I scored extrovert and introvert on that test, in different areas.

  • http://arabictattoos.org/ Owen

    “I talk to everyone, I talk too much and you can hear me laughing from across the street—but I am a full-blooded introvert.” – I would love to be that kind of introvert. Thank you for a great article. I am an introvert but as someone has pointed out there are different types of introvert. I’m the sort that loves it when people come and talk to me I want to be engaged with them but I find it very difficult to initiate conversations. Thanks again

  • Guest

    “I talk to everyone, I talk too much and you can hear me laughing from across the street—but I am a full-blooded introvert.” – I would love to be that kind of introvert. Thank you for a great article. I am an introvert but as someone has pointed out there are different types of introvert. I’m the sort that loves it when people come and talk to me I want to be engaged with them but I find it very difficult to initiate conversations. Thanks again

  • genuinejessica

    This is such a great article. Loved it!! Explains why introverts ministering to introverts get so tired. It takes soooo much effort. I’m an introvert and Sunday ministry wears me out.

  • Guest

    The new (but middle-aged) pastor of a WELL established white suburban main line denomination church announces from the pulpit, “I am not a people person.” What are the elderly women ill at home, as well as other members with various needs supposed to do when they are hear this as “don’t approach me, and I am not going to approach you.?

    • sincerely

      They shouldn’t expect any unapproachable attitude because in fact introverts are best one on one, so they may be extra careful to hear and help you.

  • Lyonet

    Apparently introverted pastor announces from the pulpit, “I am not a people person.” Now the congregation not only feels that they can not get to know him, but that he is not interested in getting to know them individually. Yet they have needs for pastoral care. Now what?

    • Rev. M. Tevis

      If an introvert is called into ministry they know that they are ‘sent’ to care for the needs of others, and they know that it will drain them to do so, and choose to do that anyway. If they feel the need to let others know that they’re introverts, it is in an effort to reach out to those people in need and help them to better understand their own specific need to have some time to disconnect so that they can get recharged and get back in there to meet the needs of those people God has sent them to help, So, a ‘give & take’ on both sides is necessary, as in any other relationship of any kind with human beings. But GREAT question, and so glad you asked it! Thank you!

    • Brian

      A lot of times, the only person that can effectively reach another introvert is….another introvert!

    • sincerely

      That’s not in the slightest what I heard about the Pastor who is introverted. She is saying that she just needs to re charge when she’s been in a crowd, not that she doesn’t care for people. Even being in an annoying environment doesn’t cause me to dislike everyone that is near me, I just feel overwhelmed by a constant stream of noise and crowding and need to get rest after a short time to keep from feeling overwhelmed by it all. I relate it to the similarities as a type of claustrophobia because it doesn’t feel easy to control, it’s similar to feeling suddenly closed in by a lot of activity too quick to process comfortably. also, I do actually get along with extroverts best when I can handle the short visits with them.

  • Rev. M. Tevis

    I’m not only an introvert, but a woman pastor as well, and not being understood by the people that are unlike you can make life so much more difficult, and this article was so beneficial towards not only helping others to understand introverts like myself, but also helpful in helping me to understand ‘me’, lol. I was tested while in college and taking a class on finding the right job suited to an individuals personality, and that was when I first learned why I had always felt like I didn’t ‘fit’ in the world. And learned that while most people need others to sort of recharge their batteries when life has drained them off,..that an introvert has to be able to recharge their own batteries because other people ARE what ‘drain’ them. I so deeply appreciated not only the honesty of this article, but the humor in the way it was presented as well. And I also DEEPLY appreciated the writer’s willingness to take the mask off, because so often those of us in ministry aren’t supposed to be ‘human’ like everyone else. People are looking for a leader and want them NOT to have to face the same issues that they are in life. Thank you, thank you, thank you JS Park!!! And thank you too for the insights and transparency you offered in your remarks about yourself at the end of the article as well! God BLESS YOU, magnified and SUPERSIZED for this wonderful article!!!~RevTev

  • http://markblock.wordpress.com/ Mark

    Great Article! The one part I like to stress to others for myself is that I do get tired after spending an extended amount of time around others. I can’t take being stuck around others as much as some people can.

  • http://www.truthstory.wordpress.com/ Loreli

    #9 in particular was helpful. I have seen and can understand all these behaviours in introverts before. I have been stymied as to why sometimes introverts CAN be the life of the party with certain people. Now I know.

  • arenare

    hahaha… I like no.14, it doen’t explode it just issues forth from fissures hahaha.. and sometimes the feelings and emotions become so overpowering that all words dissolve, therefore a touch or doing something is how I say I care… the others probably don’t know that tho.

  • Manana

    I am the same as you. I totally totally totally understand and relate to ALL of this!

    • Manana

      And my friends think that I turn insane when I go into those crazy phases…

  • Ryan

    Good article. I would suppose there are different levels of intorvertness. I don’t see how an introvert could become a pastor. My introvertness caused me to have about as much leadership and verbal ability as a rock because I was so extremely shy back in my early years. I’m an engineer that sits most the time behind a computer modeling up 3d parts and doing drawings. I really don’t talk that much to anyone. In meetings I bearly say a word. Although I do ok talking one on one with people, as soon as a third person enters the conversation I unintentionaly shut right up unless specifically asked a question. People wear me out and I do feel more alone in crowds than when I’m alone. I don’t go to places like bars or sports games. I just don’t like the crowds. I like a lot of alone time. This is one of the factors working against me in my pushing myself to try church again. As much as I’m a good listener, I also find myself cursed being a magnet for talkative people who don’t know when to shut up. Being an introvert and an engineer, I’m very logical and none emotional so when people would get all emotional and teary eyed beside me in church, well, think of a Vulcan next to a Clingon. I’m probably more extreme on the introvert scale socially although I am very phyically outgoing. If I can possibly do something for myself, I do, including my relationship with God, bible study, cutting my own hair, oil changes. I bought a house, gutted and rebuilt my kitchen, alone, roofed my back porch, painted the whole inside of my house, drywalling and everything. I bake my own bread, cook, clean, color and trim my wifes hair, sew holes in socks and underware, work out in my work out room. Being my people skills are something to be desired, my value in church or the value of church to me is very small. This is another factor about going back to church is I don’t see it to be all that value-added. I say almost nothing in group settings. A group with a true introvert is one on one. Three is a crowd.

    • Brian

      It’s hard being an introvert in a church setting, no doubt. But I also find it easy for us as introverts to use that personality trait as a type of excuse for not doing things. Just because something is hard for us to do, doesn’t make it a bad thing! In fact, a lot of times those can be very benefitial to us, if not essential.
      Being a part of a church family is a vital part of our Christian faith. Even serving in the church is essential! That doesn’t mean we need to do be as involved as those strange extroverts are, but we need to find our place! So I encourage you to find that place. Maybe (most likely) it will be serving behind the scenes, but that makes it no less important! Jesus even said there is greater honor for those positions (and people!) that are less seen!

  • Mar Komus

    LOVE it! And that’s all I’m saying. :)

  • Yvonnie

    So true can relate to most of the points raised. And this has reminded to be more careful with my eldest daughter (6) as she shuns the limelight ie singing in front of the church but is such a joy to watch in private at home with jus 1 or 2 people around her. Thank u for this

  • http://www.pinterest.com/tamzlavender/ Tamara R

    Great Article! Very much so needed!

  • Pastor Tom

    Great article! Even with 20+ years of marriage it gave me a couple insights to my introvert bride. And for some of those in the church as well. Thank you.

  • Hoosier Pastor

    Wow…hit the nail on the head…on all 14 of them! And I loved the Sherlock references…I just finished up season 2 this weekend haha!

    I’ve been in full-time ministry for 2 1/2 years, and it feels like I’m just now starting to realize that my introversion isn’t a weakness, it just makes me different. And because of that, there are things that i just do differently. Still trying to figure it all out, but I’ve found that being public about that fact has already seemed to help a bit.

  • Hoosier Pastor

    Wow…hit the nail on the head…on all 14 of them! And I loved the Sherlock references…I just finished up season 2 this weekend haha!

    I’ve been in full-time ministry for 2 1/2 years, and it feels like I’m just now starting to realize that my introversion isn’t a weakness, it just makes me different. And because of that, there are things that i just do differently. Still trying to figure it all out, but I’ve found that being public about that fact has already seemed to help a bit.

  • Adam Graunke

    About #3 – being an introvert does not excuse anyone from forgiving those who hurt you. I don’t think that was the author’s intent, but it’s easy to take it as “don’t rebuke me in public or I will never let it go.”

  • PastorKC

    Described me to a Tee!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for writing this. Pastor KC

    • Pastor KFC

      Helped me too! Now I wont feel so bad about spacing out on the job. And believe me its a big one. Pastor KFC

  • Pippa

    Afraid I completely disagree with this article and it portrays introverts as some mumbling, less intelligent species. As a raging introvert myself, I can only say point 7 has any correlation to real life. If you’re introverted you just need more cave time as it’s exhausting being around people too much. But the other statements describe shy or awkward people. I’m an introvert and I’m articulate, I love to worship God outwardly, yes I process in my head but then I share my conclusion. This article paints a weird unrealistic picture of introverts that isn’t based on truth, facts or research but just one persons preferences. Dangerous.

    • Jords vI

      Pippa, I too am an outgoing introvert.
      I am a worship leader, youth pastor, stage actor and am incredibly quick witted, but I still agree with most of this article. It just seems like you may be reading more subtext than is actually there/intended.
      Your point about processing and then sharing I believe is in response to point 1? That point doesn’t say we never share (as you have implied it does), but instead states that we share in our own time and do not like to be made to share while we are still processing, which almost all introverts I know would agree with.

      The point of this post is not to paint introverts in a certain light, but mainly to call up the ways in which we are often misunderstood and mistreated. The statements are not describing shy people, but the ways in which extroverts can treat introverts as if they were shy. In fact, the article says more than anything else, ‘These are not shy tendencies, these are introverted tendencies and are therefore acts of energy and not character. Treat them as such, please and thank you.’
      That’s just my own personal paraphrase..

    • dlgRN

      Pippa, It is possible for introverts to not have as many of the same introversion traits as he does or maybe your definition of introversion is different than his. I have just about every single one of these traits. And after having done much reading over the last year on introversion defined, I have found that most introverts encounter these same things, maybe not all of these traits, but each with different issues from this list. And not everyone is the same because there are varying degrees of introverts with some extroversion involved and vice versa. The majority of the population has some of both. I think that if he described and listed more than the traits that you experience, then you simply don’t have as many of these traits as he and others. The point of his blog: this is REAL LIFE to him and many, many others as evidenced by most of the comments to this blog. And actually, your comment of his portrayal of mumbling, less intelligent species obviously doesn’t even apply to you if you don’t experience many of the same things. But with that, you have named everyone who does have these issues a mumbling, less intelligent species. And it is not “weird and unrealistic”. THAT IS HIS POINT!! If you and others view it that way, then this was written FOR you, not ABOUT you. Just because people are different, it does not call for your words. I can’t understand why people get so offended over a person sharing their thoughts, trying to empathize with others who may feel or experience the same thing. He did not put your name in this article, he is referring to himself and others who have these traits.

  • mike

    A lot of truth, but I’m also a lot more apethetic about what people say or think about me and don’t mind people attempting to humiliate me, because I usually have a throughly processed (me tooting my own horn the best an introvert can?) rebuttal that I didn’t realize I had in the bank. No need to walk on eggshells or not call it like you see it.

  • artgirl

    Great article that gives hope to us introverts. Social pressure to constantly engage is unbelievably damaging to an introvert Unfortunately, in my own experience, when I began to give up a more social role in life and began taking more time for myself and my husband, the “christians” in my life became quite offended. Even after numerous explanations that I just need more space and that my cup was constantly overflowing with doings and I felt like a basket case trying to keep up, they have all shunned me. My best friend has tossed me to the side because I have “abandoned” Jesus and my doings for him. I will never return to organized religion or the pressures that path places on people. I appreciate the author’s time, energy and wisdom in this writing.

  • Friend

    artgirl, I understand how you feel and what you’ve gone through when it comes to remaining social with many others. But, you shouldn’t give up on the church, because of those individuals lacking compassion. My hopes and prayers are with you, that you will find a warm, welcoming and living church home. Afterall, to avoid the church and is to avoid the body of Christ. Have hope, be strong and remain steadfast. Life in Christ, isn’t always going to be easy and painless, but God is sufficient to get you through every trial you will encounter. Very awesome article, I completly agree on all points. Being an introvert is a privilege just as it so for extrovers. But, walking with God as an introvert, is even more special. Because, we introverts who remain in Christ, have much to share and experience. As some point along the way in life all introverts have experienced some level of shame or rejection whether from self or another. Thank God we all come to realize we are normal, a introversion is a God given gift. Grow a mature in Christ, while sharing what you can with the world.

  • Jen Smith

    It’s good that you wrote this article. In some ways, I fit your points. In others, I don’t, even as an introvert. Introversion vs extroversion is only one element of the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and probably of other personality tests.

    I think that we tend to associate characteristics with introversion or extroversion that actually belong to other dimensions of our personalities. Perhaps this is because the introversion/extroversion contrast is popular right now.

    You, I and the other readers can parse it out for ourselves. The essential difference betweeen these two is how energy is revived or sucked out of us. Extroverts tend to be energized with others, but are drained by too much alone time. Introverts are energized by alone time, but drained by too much social interaction. For an introvert then, small groups (or even better one-on-one) are less draining. The degree to which one is an introvert or extrovert varies from person to person. I have read that most people become more introverted with age, too. In my opinion, it may also shift with circumstances.

  • Jeremiah

    Just a thought , instead of seeking to express yourself ,express Christ …. Maybe I do not fully understand . We shouldn’t be so caught up in soul searching or am I an introvert or extrovert or my personality is compatible with this personality .Oneness does not come from me trying not to offend you . Oneness comes from Christ . Enjoying Christ in the body is oneness. I do not agree with using your disposition as an excuse to limit your subjective experience of Christ in the body . We must put these things to death and take Christ as our everything .

    • Jeremiah

      I have not had fellowship over this matter this is just what I see to be true which my current knowledge of the bible .