Many people are surprised to hear that a lot of pastors are introverts. More specifically, they are – in my opinion – introverts in an extrovert’s job.
For the record, the basic differences are as follows:
- Introverts are less outgoing, talkative, enthusiastic and energetic, than their extroverted cousins.
- Introverts are more oriented to the world of their minds; extroverts are more focused on the external environment. Extroverts sometimes report that they sometimes think about Introverts never think about nothing.
- Extroverts thrive on being around other people. They love social gatherings, parties, etc. and work well in groups. Introverts? Not so much. Introverts thrive in seclusion.
- Extroverts are energized by other people. Introverts are energized by other people as well, but not for long. After a couple of hours at a party something within them is screaming to escape the noise and go home. It almost feels like claustrophobia.
- Introverts can enjoy an almost endless amount of time spent alone. They are easily overwhelmed by too much external stimulation and this differentiation is related to their central nervous systems.
Now let’s talk about introverted pastors.
This is not only the ideal held by the average church member, but, in my opinion, this is also the ideal set forth by many Christian leaders and superstar pastors. Leadership gurus, in particular, specialize in making introverted pastors feel like complete failures.
But my unscientific observation is that the majority of pastors might be “closet” introverts who consider themselves to be inferior to their extroverted brethren.
As an introvert who came out of the closet several decades ago, I felt it was high time somebody went to work on a survival guide for introverted pastors.
1. Recognize that if God made you more introverted than extroverted – and we all land somewhere on a continuum between two extremes – He made you that way for a reason. Introversion is not part of your sin nature; it’s not a fault. So stop wishing you were an extrovert and stop trying to be an extrovert. It won’t work and it’s not necessary.
2. Embrace the advantages of being an introverted pastor. You probably enjoy the presence of God more than your extroverted colleagues do and that is significant. People let us down; God doesn’t. Your Godward focus is going to give you rock-solid stability. Your church’s health has a whole lot to do with your own personal relationship with God. So enjoy it and treasure it. Your time alone with God every day is the most important thing you do and for you, it’s comparatively easy.
Besides that, you’re more apt to be a serious prayer warrior than your extroverted pastor friend from down the street and that is hugely important as well.
Besides that, you’re more apt to be a serious student of the Scriptures and present more substantive sermons than your extroverted friends. Not everyone will treasure that, but God certainly does. Some of your extroverted friends have to just about tie themselves down to their desk chairs to get their Sunday sermons completed, but you relish the task.
Besides that, some surprising research is telling us that the best leaders are not quick decision makers; they are careful, prayerful and comparatively slow at “pulling the trigger.”
3. Accept the fact that your calling demands that you “act like an extrovert” for a certain number of hours per week. Remember that the extrovert has to do the opposite, so we’re all faced with the challenge of adaptation, one way or another. “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”
If you learn how to manage both your calendar and your clock – something every pastor has to get good at – you can fulfill your responsibilities without a wholesale personality transformation, which isn’t going to happen anyway.
The glorious truth is that God – who is sufficient for all things – will give you the grace to love people, experience joy, express enthusiasm, and even enjoy (or at least endure) parties.
You’ll never be the guy who stays until the end and helps clean up; you’ll be home in bed by then. But at least you’ll have done your duty and your extroverted church members will thank you for it.