According to the last time I took the full Myers-Briggs Type Indicator I am an INFJ person (Introvert-Intuitive-Feeling-Judging). Being an introvert has its perks–I don’t get bored as easily–but it also has its drawbacks, especially in ministry.
Seek meaning and connection in ideas, relationships, and material possessions. Want to understand what motivates people and are insightful about others. Conscientious and committed to their firm values. Develop a clear vision about how best to serve the common good. Organized and decisive in implementing their vision.
It isn’t easy being an introvert in ministry. So much of my time is spent dealing with people face to face. I am always on call. I spend most afternoons out visiting people in nursing homes, hospitals, and in their own homes. I get up on Saturday and Sunday to lead 300+ people in worship. My office door is always open (as it should be) for anyone to walk in who needs to talk. It takes a lot of energy to be fully present with people all the time.
I consider myself lucky because I happen to be an introvert who can pretend to be an extrovert. Most people who hear I’m an introvert are surprised. I teeter on the edge between Introvert and Extrovert, but at the end of the day, I fall to the Introvert side.
I understand why God needed a seventh day to rest after creation. Friday, my day off, is my sacred time. Most Fridays, if the weather is nice, I’ll hit the bike trail around Muskegon Lake, or walk to Heritage Landing to watch the sunset. I’ll kick off my shoes and settle in with one of many books I’m trying to finish and a cup of chocolate milk.
That time is what every introvert needs–time to unwind, to not worry about another person but one’s own self. Time to reflect on the week prior and plan for the week ahead.
Not everyone recharges this way. My supervisor, ever the outgoing extrovert, can finish a twelve hour Wednesday From Hell and then go out to a local restaurant/bar for a few hours to listen to live music and eat with friends–and he actually feels more energized. I love going, too, but when I get home, I’m ready to crash.
There are things that I find difficult as an introvert in ministry. I love going out on visits, but calling people up and inviting myself over to their house leaves makes me anxious. I walk into a room full of people, and “playing the room” is not my first instinct–finding a small group I am comfortable with is. I am a terrible conversation starter because I have a hard time remembering people’s names.
I have had to train myself to overcome these tendencies. I don’t deny who I am–I am still an introvert who needs “me time”–but in this calling, I can’t afford to sit back and wait for someone else to “take care of it.” If I am called to speak, then I must speak to people no matter where they are. If I am called to administer the sacraments then I have to meet people to do that.
I do know that God is with me through these struggles. God always has been. Look at the apostle Peter–he goes from bumbling idiot to “pillar of the church” and a leader in the Christian movement. Certainly if Peter can do it, I can do it.
Being an introvert is not a bad thing or a weakness. It requires a different approach to discipline and motivation in ministry. And with it comes a different understanding of vulnerability, intimacy, compassion and empathy that is essential to ministry.
5 thoughts on “An Introvert in Ministry”
Sitting with a sleeping cat on a quiet Monday off and nodding in agreement 🙂
Sometimes I wish I had Monday off. But I think I enjoy having Friday off.
You play the extrovert part very well. I’m not sure I ever thought of you as an introvert, (except when you did not say one word to the teachers in 2 yrs of preschool), just a guy who likes his solitude. Ministry might just beat the introvert tendencies right out of you!
Heh, the fact that I like my solitude is part of what makes me an introvert. And you don’t remember how paralyzingly shy I was as a kid?
I’m an extreme introvert also: INFP, the Idealist. And I’m socially awkward and anxious and shy to boot. I have a great heart for people, but it’s very hard to be around them. I have toyed with the idea of the priesthood (or it has toyed with me), but I know the personal interaction part of that vocation would definitely not be my strong suit. God would have to do a lot of preparation. I can very much relate to what you’re saying here.