I’ve mentioned, in two previous posts on this subject, that many pastors are “introverts in an extrovert’s job.”
Here’s what I mean:
- While I’ve had people compliment me for careful research, substantive sermons, deep thinking and good listening skills – all traits of introversion – nobody has ever said “Oh, I’m so glad you’re an introverted pastor!” I have had people who mistakenly thought I was an extrovert and considered that to be a strength of my ministry!
- While I’ve never had anybody commend me for going to bed by ten o’clock, I have been berated for not staying until the end of the party (like the last pastor did).
- I’ve coached five senior pastor search committees. None of them have listed in their “pastor profile” that they were looking for an introverted pastor.
So yeah, let’s face it, many of us are introverts in what our parishioners see as an extrovert’s job. We need help if we’re going to make this work.
Here’s a quick summary of the differences between introverts and extroverts:
- Introverts are less outgoing, talkative, enthusiastic and energetic, than extroverts.
- Introverts are more oriented to the world of their minds; extroverts are more focused on the external environment.
- Extroverts thrive on being around other people. Introverts thrive in seclusion.
- Extroverts are energized by other people. Introverts are energized by other people as well, but not for long. A couple of hours at a party is plenty.
- Introverts are more easily aroused by input and are therefore more easily overwhelmed by external stimulation.
Here’s a bare-bones version of the introverted pastor’s survival tips I’ve shared so far.
- Recognize that if God made you more introverted than extroverted, He made you that way for a reason.
- Embrace the advantages of being an introverted pastor. I mentioned a strong desire for time alone with God, your patience for the process of prayer, your love for long hours studying the Scriptures and your careful, informed decision-making. I could also have mentioned your ability to withstand the loneliness of the pastoral leadership life.
- Accept the fact that your calling demands that you “act like an extrovert” for a certain number of hours per week.
- Work at developing and expressing positive emotions. Pursue joy, over-express your positive emotions, hang-out with positive peers and ask God to help you have and be fun.
- Learn how to communicate the love you feel for people. Feeling love for people doesn’t cut it; we have to learn how to express it in ways that other people can understand.
Here are my final five survival tips.
6. Since you enjoy deep, one-on-one relationships as much as you do, pour yourself into discipling and mentoring others. This is quiet, inauspicious, behind-the-scenes, significant, eternity-impacting work that your extroverted pastor friends will not normally do. Jesus spent much of his three-year public ministry training twelve men. There were about 120 in the church he left behind; one tenth of them (after Judas was replaced) were these twelve individuals. Mentoring people won’t make you an evangelical superstar, but God sees, and loves this kind of work.
7. While you prefer to work alone, take advantage of the wisdom of others. You need a team, whether you want one or not, even if you think deeply and pray fervently. Let somebody else design the new ministry for a change. Give people some facts and let them reach their own conclusions; don’t do their thinking for them, even though you’re sure that your thinking is so much better than theirs. Print out your proposal with some obvious errors.
I had a highly competent pastor friend express his frustration over how his senior pastor delivered every new proposal fully thought-through, organized, signed, sealed, delivered and beautifully printed. There was no room for any input into the work of the introverted senior leader.
8. Work hard at becoming an assertive leader. Churches need leaders. Leaders should lead! But introverted senior or solo pastors are often reluctant to project themselves, their personalities, their thoughts, their passions their ideas. They don’t speak up. They expect the group to decide everything. I tell some pastors, “They love and trust you; they’re waiting for your leadership; tell them what you think!” When their fully thought-through and well-written proposal (as in #7 above) is challenged, they give up and withdraw the whole thing.
9. Be wary of analysis paralysis. It’s great to be a careful, conscientious decision maker, but at some point you have to pull the trigger. Introverts can fritter away their ministries trying to decide whether their church should try small groups or adult Bible fellowships. Pray for wisdom, do your homework, make a decision.
10. Don’t try to multi-task. It doesn’t actually work well for anybody, no matter what they tell you. You must have many projects on the workbench, but you can work on them one at a time. Eventually, people will appreciate the great work you do when you focus.