Introverts can be misunderstood in church. Probably because they don’t say much. They prefer to mull things over, only sharing their thoughts with their two friends or maybe their plants. Introverts in church tend to observe the activity before they jump in – that is, if they ever ‘jump’ in. They enjoy quieter, less frenetic places and spaces, which makes their homes, their car, or solitary walks in nature far more desirable than social engagements.
Contrary to popular belief, however, introverts don’t mind people that much. They are discerning and avoid excessively eccentric or impulsive types; also anyone who introduces themselves as a “hugger.” Introverts may happily coexist with anyone who respects their personal boundaries and doesn’t rush them out of their comfort zone prematurely. You see, the introvert needs time to process every decision, perhaps with a pro vs. cons summary or a decision Venn diagram.
Not all introverts are the same. The more social introvert or ambivert is sometimes mistaken for an extrovert, particularly when they find themselves in leadership roles. These chameleons are more likely to suppress their introversion in church life, desiring to serve or meet the social needs of others. For the more reserved introvert, church gatherings can be overwhelming. Even for an ambivert, the social demands of Sunday services or church events can be draining. Despite all this, introverted Christians need church and community, and churches need introverts. Introverts have strengths that every faith community needs and, despite their reservations, introverts need the diversity and challenge of life in community.
Fear not, gentle introvert, you can safely leave your blanket burrito to be a part of church services and maybe even enjoy it a little.
Before the service
- Prepare yourself. There’s something special about time spent in corporate worship and prayer. Remind yourself of the peace that you have felt before in church.
- Get to church early or find an alternative entrance to avoid the crowd and the enthusiastic welcome team/ front door greeters. Remember that time you waved and someone high-fived you? R.I.P.
- Text a friend to meet you so you have someone to talk to or stand next to. People can talk to your friend as you nod along.
- If it’s your first time attending a church locate the restrooms when you enter the building. This is a handy place to escape if you need a minute.
- If you’re a bit of a regular, look around and note any other early arrivers or people on their own. Could you take one step toward another human? *Googles “how to do a Duchenne smile?”
- Save a seat next to you for a friend, or someone who seems similar in nature to you. It’s always nice to find another introvert to be alone together with.
- Use the time to pray for the service. It’s good to pray, and literally no-one will talk to you when your eyes are closed.
During the service
- Give attention to God and to the experience. With gratitude, watch the various people in the room who serve and facilitate the service, from the singers and musicians on stage to the people who help others to their seats.
- Worship as you feel comfortable. You might try a different posture from your usual, perhaps kneeling or sitting to rest in the presence of God.
- Many services include a moment to greet those around you with a handshake or a hug. If that’s a nope, a simple smile or nod can suffice.
- Bring a notebook and pen or pull out your smartphone to write down sermon notes, scriptures, as well as your questions or insights.
- In moments of prayer, ask God to illuminate your heart and consider if there is an area you need prayer for. Ask God to show you someone in the service you can pray for either privately or perhaps after the service.
- If you’re feeling a little disconnected, take note of any opportunities to join a small group, Bible study or class. These settings provide a more intimate space for social engagement, deeper connections and the chance to meet people.
After the service
- If you need to bail quickly, do so with no guilt. It’s okay to know your limits. You could also hide out with the media or tech team. They’ll probably put you to work but that may suit you just fine.
- The social introvert knows that the foyer is a great time to do a bunch of micro catch-ups with a range of people so you don’t need to make time in the week for social interaction.
- Small talk is an art form and one that even you can master. Think of a few open-ended questions you can ask to get virtually anyone chatting. Curiosity is one of the superpowers of the introvert, so use this to get people talking about themselves. It takes the pressure off you to talk and allows the other person to share and shine.
- Another introvert superpower is the ability to listen deeply and remember details. Refer to previous conversations you’ve had with a person and follow up on how things are going since your last chat.
- People tend to trust you and share more personal things they may be facing. Check-in with people and offer to pray for their needs. You won’t believe how much it comforts and blesses them.
- On the drive home, decide whether or not you need a nap.
Navigating Sunday church services as an introvert can be a rewarding experience that deepens your spirituality and fosters meaningful connections. By preparing mentally, engaging in the service at your own pace, and approaching social interactions using your strengths, you can be both blessed and a blessing.