The Introvert, The Extrovert, & The Church

Let me begin this post with a disclaimer:  I am not a psychologist.  This blog post is based on observation and my own opinions based on those observations.  Please do not attempt to self-diagnose based on this blog post alone.

Great.  Now let’s define the terms:

Introvert – 

An introvert is a person who seeks solitude in order to rest, recharge mentally, and become refreshed.  This solitude can include immediate family members, but rarely includes people outside of one’s own family.  Restful activities may include sleeping, reading, watching TV at home, housework, home projects, or any other activity that can be done independently.

Extrovert – 

An extrovert is a person who seeks community in order to rest, recharge mentally, and become refreshed.  They do so by engaging with groups of people whether they be friends or strangers.  They will look beyond their immediate family unit for such interaction.  Restful activities may include going to a busy restaurant, attending a concert or sporting event, attending festivals, or participating in group projects.

Now, these terms are not the same as…

Shy / Cautious – 

Shyness is defined as being reserved or having or showing nervousness or timidity in the company of other people.

Outgoing / Confident – 

Outgoing is defined as friendly and socially confident.

Often we associate introversion with being shy and cautious, and we associate extroversion with being outgoing and confident.  However, this is not always the case.  In fact, you can find people who are a mixture of any of these two pairs.  These people all come with different needs and they express those needs in different ways.

As the church, we need to be able to identify and understand each group in order to minister to individuals effectively as well as care for the flock as a whole.

Romans 12:10 says, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…”  As we do this, let us learn how to love well by understanding ourselves and the people God has called us to love.

So what do these combinations look like?  Let us start with the obvious:

The Outgoing Extrovert

The outgoing extrovert loves being around people and has no problem getting the conversation going.  They enjoy the spotlight and they are quick to put themselves in situations that require lots of social interaction. 

In church life, the OE will be quick to volunteer and they have no problem being front and center.  They view everything at the church as a party.  When visiting a new church, they will be quick to make connections and plug into groups

If you are one:  The church needs you!!  Don’t hesitate to take the lead, but leave room for others.  Please understand that teaching means studying & preparation.  You can probably get by with confidence, but only for so long.  Bring enthusiasm to all that you do, and be careful to not let your “gift of gab” turn into gossip.

How to love them:  The OE loves & craves social groups.  Invite them to things, especially gatherings around the Bible.  Encourage them to use their gifts to greet and get to know visitors.  Don’t be in a hurry with OEs; take the time to have a meaningful conversation even when it might be inconvenient.  When communicating with an OE, a text is good, but a call is usually better.

The Shy Introvert

The shy introvert prefers being by themselves.  To the SI, starting a conversation is a terrifying thing.  They do enjoy tasks that can be done solo.  Even extremely complicated & skilled jobs are no match for an SI who is able to concentrate.  SIs tend to be very empathetic and deep thinkers.

In church life, they are more than willing to help but being in front of people is scary.  SIs typically do not like being in the midst of a large group.  Fellowships, concerts, and morning worship are not their favorite time, but they do enjoy small groups and accountability groups if they do not have to initiate the conversation.  SIs are often the backbone of the church, unseen but indispensable. 

If you are one:  The church needs you!!  When you look around the church, you may feel like only the outgoing people are important, but that cannot be further from the truth.  There are so many roles in the church, some of which are probably being overlooked.  If you are not sure how you can serve & you do not want to ask, attend a business meeting and see where you might fit.  Your empathy and awareness of other people’s emotions are crucial to unity within the church.  Find a person who will speak for you (like Moses did) and help others see the bigger picture.

How to love them:  Please understand that for an SI to even come through the door is an act of courage.  Always take time to notice them, but do not overwhelm them with lots of people.  The SI will not fight to be heard.  Even in a one-on-one conversation, the SI will not speak up.   If the other person interrupts and dominates the conversation, they will shut down and cease to converse.  Seek above all else to be a listening ear and occasionally a voice for their great ideas.  Be a consistent presence without being an overwhelming force, reassure them that they belong and help them find that place.

Now, let us take a look at the less obvious pairs:

The Outgoing Introvert

Yes, this is a thing  This is often called an “extroverted introvert” or an “ambivert”.  The OI looks like an outgoing extrovert, but they eventually burn out.  The OI can “turn on” their outgoing personality for social events.  They know how to work a crowd, start a conversation, and make friends.  However, all of these activities leave them exhausted.  They may enjoy it, but it is definitely work for them.  OIs will occasionally disappear for rest & relaxation away from people.  If an OI is forced to be “on” for too long, they will crash; shutting down for several days or longer in order to recover.

In church life, they are more willing to be up front, but they may be less quick to volunteer.  An OI will usually say things like, “If you need me, I’ll help.”  Often, they will do just about anything, but long-term commitments are stressful.  Like a shy introvert, they prefer small groups and accountability partners, but it may be hard to tell since they navigate a crowd well.  

If you are one:  The church needs you!!  You are a bridge builder.  You can start the conversation but then move things on to another person.  Don’t feel bad when you need to rest, rest is a good thing!  It’s okay to turn down opportunities, but don’t get too comfortable saying no.  Seek out a few meaningful relationships in the church and invest in those. 

How to love them:  You will probably think an OI is an OE until they disappear.  Please don’t read their absence as anger or disapproval.  They will be back when they are ready.  It is important with an OI to keep communication lines open even when they are not responding.  Keep them in the loop, assure them that they are not forgotten, and be ready when they reemerge.  Like the shy introvert, be a listening ear and seek to know the person even when their outgoing personality is not turned on.

The Shy Extrovert

The shy extrovert is often mistaken for an introvert; even by themselves.  The SE craves human interaction, and like the outgoing extrovert, they can struggle if they are isolated for too long.  However, the SE prefers not to initiate conversation.  This means they enjoy being a part of the group, but not necessarily in the spotlight.  They enjoy festivals, concerts, and crowds, but they prefer to be just another face in the crowd.  They will speak up in a group situation, and they will assert their position, but they may not seek out the conversation.

In church life, the SE is a faithful attender who likes to see people and be a part of any group.  They want to be included in the conversation without being put on the spot.  They are happy to serve, especially with friends.  They are great on committees because they can speak their mind without being intimidated.  

If you are one:  The church needs you!!  Your presence contributes so much to the warm, friendly atmosphere of the church.  The church is a relational place and you help facilitate those relationships.  You encourage talks to go deeper and you bring great insight into all that you do.  I know there is a temptation to just stay home because it is easier.  However, this is not what is best for you.  Much like exercise, what may be hard to start will actually make you feel better when it is over.  Also, be careful with expectations.  There will be times you feel let down because a relationship did not live up to your expectations, show grace in every situation.

How to love them:  The SE wants to be included.  They may not say it, but they do.  Sometimes you have to push them out the door, but do so with a lot of love and understanding.  Invite them to everything you can.  If they do not come, then follow up with them.  Text messages and emails are okay, but they actually do better when it’s face-to-face.  Do your best to keep them from isolating.  Isolation is not good for them.  Be gracious when they slip into it and when they come out of it.  They need caring people around them.

My prayer is that we can use a list like this to learn how to love each other; not label each other.  In the end, all of us need to be quick to show grace to others regardless of our personality.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  (Eph 4:32)