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Book: Introverts in the Church: Finding our place in an extroverted culture

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I'm not sure if this fits under faith or literature, so if it gets moved, I'll understand. I just finished this book my Adam S. McHugh and for me, a lot of my puzzle pieces are beginning to fall into place.

I'm an introvert, defined as someone who finds strength in solitude, is drained by social interactions that are bigger than a few people, needs to process information internally before coming to a conclusion, and has struggled to find a place in a church culture that is, by and large, extrovert oriented.

I don't like the pressure the "fellowship" time between services. I've struggled with the worship style of the person that leads worship most of the time. At least reading the book has allowed me to see that I'm not the only one who struggles with a culture alien to my wiring.

My issue now is what to do with this new insight.

I'll process.

I'm an introvert.

It's what I do. B)

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One of the best things I've ever read about introverts like you...and me.

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200303/rauch

I'm not sure if this fits under faith or literature, so if it gets moved, I'll understand. I just finished this book my Adam S. McHugh and for me, a lot of my puzzle pieces are beginning to fall into place.

I'm an introvert, defined as someone who finds strength in solitude, is drained by social interactions that are bigger than a few people, needs to process information internally before coming to a conclusion, and has struggled to find a place in a church culture that is, by and large, extrovert oriented.

I don't like the pressure the "fellowship" time between services. I've struggled with the worship style of the person that leads worship most of the time. At least reading the book has allowed me to see that I'm not the only one who struggles with a culture alien to my wiring.

My issue now is what to do with this new insight.

I'll process.

I'm an introvert.

It's what I do. B)

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You could become a hermit or a religious.

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Fascinating article, Greg. And it leaves me as confused as ever about my own true nature, because I recognize pieces of myself in Rauch's descriptions of both introverts AND extroverts. Indeed, on the two or three occasions when I have taken the Meyers-Briggs test, I have consistently scored as iNtuitive, Thinking and Perception (as opposed to Sensory, Feeling and Judgment), but I appear to be borderline on the Introvert vs Extrovert question; I have found myself on either side of the ledger at least once.

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McHugh's book was adapted as an article in the 11/17/09 issue of The Christian Century under the title "Can Introverts Lead"

While searching EBSCO for the citation, I saw there's something in the 12/28/09 Forbes magazine by someone else, "Why Introverts Can Make the Best Leaders"

Another citation there is of a review of McHugh's book:

Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.Full Text Available By: Arnett, Ray. Library Journal, 11/1/2009, Vol. 134 Issue 18, p70-70, 1/5p; Reading Level (Lexile): 1020; (AN 45061926)

The article reviews the book "Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture," by Adam S. McHugh.

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Fascinating article, Greg. And it leaves me as confused as ever about my own true nature, because I recognize pieces of myself in Rauch's descriptions of both introverts AND extroverts. Indeed, on the two or three occasions when I have taken the Meyers-Briggs test, I have consistently scored as iNtuitive, Thinking and Perception (as opposed to Sensory, Feeling and Judgment), but I appear to be borderline on the Introvert vs Extrovert question; I have found myself on either side of the ledger at least once.

Extroversion definitely makes more sense to me rated on a scale instead of either/or. The categories really only apply at the extremes, and everyone else (most people) probably see bits and pieces of themselves in descriptions of both types. This applies to personality traits generally, too, but is more intuitive with I/E. I'm also guessing it's one of the traits most malleable by peer-interaction. Just look at some of the testimonies in a related article: http://www.theatlant...604u/introversy

Edited by KShaw

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You could become a hermit or a religious.

Ha! If you only knew how appealing the hermit aspect is at times! :)

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Did you take that article seriously, or do you think Jonathan Rauch had his tongue firmly planted in cheek when he wrote it? I hope the latter was the case. I am most definitely an introvert but to be honest, I found "Caring for Your Introvert" to be rather sanctimonious, what with all of the talk about "damaging misconceptions and stereotypes" and oppression.

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Did you take that article seriously, or do you think Jonathan Rauch had his tongue firmly planted in cheek when he wrote it? I hope the latter was the case. I am most definitely an introvert but to be honest, I found "Caring for Your Introvert" to be rather sanctimonious, what with all of the talk about "damaging misconceptions and stereotypes" and oppression.

I think it was tongue in cheek; using humor/exaggeration to draw people into the article and to get his points across. :) Thanks to Greg for posting the link!

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Fascinating article, Greg. And it leaves me as confused as ever about my own true nature, because I recognize pieces of myself in Rauch's descriptions of both introverts AND extroverts. Indeed, on the two or three occasions when I have taken the Meyers-Briggs test, I have consistently scored as iNtuitive, Thinking and Perception (as opposed to Sensory, Feeling and Judgment), but I appear to be borderline on the Introvert vs Extrovert question; I have found myself on either side of the ledger at least once.

Like KShaw said, there are spectrums of introverts/extroverts. One thing that struck me as I was reading the book is the number of pastors that are introverts at heart, but have no difficulty speaking in front of a congregation. But the fellowship time between services is really hard for them to handle.

I think most people who know my husband would assume he's an extrovert. But to those who *really* know him, like me :), know he's really an introvert, with a personality that has a lot of extrovert traits to it. If that makes sense. :blink:

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The problem with the introvert/extrovert continuum is that most of the time it's heavily determined by how the person themself. And that means it relies to a certain extent on that person's situation.

Take for example two people both of whom are exactly halfway along the continuum. One happens to work in people intensive job and returns home to a houseful of kids, and evening church groups etc. It's highly likely that this person will ache for some space which will be reflected in the way they answer the questions which lead to their diagnosis.

The other has recently moved to a new country, they only speak a little of the language and have very few friends. I'd imagine that they would ache for some company.

Same place on the scale, but likely to have very different assessments of their place on the scale. Perhaps that doesn't really matter though.

Matt

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Actually, I like the line in the article about actors often being introverts who SEEM like extroverts. I'm sure that description applies to other people, too, besides professional thespians.

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I wonder how many folks who are introverts and feeling out of place in church are evangelicals? If this is the case, I would recommend checking out an Anglican church at least. Maybe Lutherans and Orthodox are similar. Catholic churches, I don't know. There are comfortable introverts and extroverts who are Catholic.

I am a textbook extrovert. As an Episcopalian, I sense that sometimes I appear like a bull in a chinashop. I don't raise my hands when we sing, or anything, but even something like reading scripture expressively or reciting a Creed expressively seems to bring an awkward silence on occasion. I would say that sacramental worship, high sacramental worship in particular, might be more comfortable for introverts. Exuberance in public seems more in keeping with folks like me, even though I am extremely uncomfortable with extroverted worship.

That being said, I like what Matt says about the borderline or middleground.

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Take for example two people both of whom are exactly halfway along the continuum. One happens to work in people intensive job and returns home to a houseful of kids, and evening church groups etc. It's highly likely that this person will ache for some space which will be reflected in the way they answer the questions which lead to their diagnosis.

The other has recently moved to a new country, they only speak a little of the language and have very few friends. I'd imagine that they would ache for some company.

So how would they skew? Would #1 locate himself as an introvert because he's constantly engaging in exhausting interactions, #2 extrovert because he longs for and is energized by the company of others? Or would #1 say he's an extrovert because he has many connections, and #2 introvert because he has few?

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Just thinking about this a little more, the thing about the middle ground is that, assuming a normal distribution curve applies here (and I can't see why it wouldn't), then most people are somewhere near the middle, and therefore influenced more by their circumstances than is usually discussed.

Matt

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Just thinking about this a little more, the thing about the middle ground is that, assuming a normal distribution curve applies here (and I can't see why it wouldn't), then most people are somewhere near the middle, and therefore influenced more by their circumstances than is usually discussed.

Matt

Sounds plausible to me. I am an extreme extrovert and always have been. However, when I've been at very low points in my life, I have felt unworthy of interaction, or "not ready for interaction". I can remember a time when I was living just off of downtown and would hide for days from interaction. Just knowing there was activity and commerce out on the streets below was enough to give some comfort and relief from what would have been extreme loneliness. I could use the word soothing. Heh, that was a long time ago. I'd say that circumstances can influence one's sense of sociability.

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Just thinking about this a little more, the thing about the middle ground is that, assuming a normal distribution curve applies here (and I can't see why it wouldn't), then most people are somewhere near the middle, and therefore influenced more by their circumstances than is usually discussed.

I'd say that circumstances can influence one's sense of sociability.

Yea, sounds about right. It might seem weird to say that circumstance can influence our internal disposition--whether people wear us out or charge us up. Yet I've observed it in my own life, and it's such a fine odd line to begin with.

I've had similar moments, too, Rich. They always catch me by surprise. As if I could put off something as essential as contact for a while and not feel the repercussions. Loneliness is almost like a punishment to keep us in connection. I'm sure evolutionary psychologists could read something into that.

The focus on evangelism probably intimidates a lot of introverts, because there's a sense that this witness spontaneously flows out of you. At the same time, there's a current of classic piety that has a big introspective bent. Though I'm not a part of them, I've always thought that the big sacramental churches had a flavor like introspection.

Parallel topic: Extroverts in Art.

Edited by KShaw

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I wonder how many folks who are introverts and feeling out of place in church are evangelicals? If this is the case, I would recommend checking out an Anglican church at least. Maybe Lutherans and Orthodox are similar. Catholic churches, I don't know. There are comfortable introverts and extroverts who are Catholic.

I am a textbook extrovert. As an Episcopalian, I sense that sometimes I appear like a bull in a chinashop. I don't raise my hands when we sing, or anything, but even something like reading scripture expressively or reciting a Creed expressively seems to bring an awkward silence on occasion. I would say that sacramental worship, high sacramental worship in particular, might be more comfortable for introverts. Exuberance in public seems more in keeping with folks like me, even though I am extremely uncomfortable with extroverted worship.

That being said, I like what Matt says about the borderline or middleground.

I'd say that there are many factors -- one of which is certainly introversion/extroversion -- that contribute to one's sense of comfort in worship. I'm a classic introvert, and there are times when the exuberance of the worship I encounter makes me feel profoundly uncomfortable. Can y'all dial it back? I just got out of bed an hour ago, and I haven't had nearly enough coffee yet to engage in holy aerobics/jumping jacks for Jesus. On the other hand, I'm way over on the F (Feeling) side of the Feeling/Thinking Myers-Briggs scale, and so I also feel profoundly uncomfortable with liturgical readings done in a monotone. Just save yourself some time and effort and stay in bed. This is usually about the time when some well-intentioned brother informs me that love is more than a feeling, and I respond, "Yeah, but it's not a f&^%^$ grocery list, either," and we tussle in holy combat.

I suspect the IxFx Myers-Briggs combos are particularly hard to please in worship. We want to dance, and grow impatient with the overall reluctance to break out of rigid formalism. But the second we so much as twitch, we are painfully aware that everyone is looking at us, and so we stand still in utter embarrassment, and later go home and blog about it. The Internet has been a godsend for people like me.

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On the other hand, I'm way over on the F (Feeling) side of the Feeling/Thinking Myers-Briggs scale, and so I also feel profoundly uncomfortable with liturgical readings done in a monotone. Just save yourself some time and effort and stay in bed. This is usually about the time when some well-intentioned brother informs me that love is more than a feeling, and I respond, "Yeah, but it's not a f&^%^$ grocery list, either," and we tussle in holy combat.

YES!!!! My motivation has always been to put feeling into scripture readings because it is NOT liturgy. But then I try to put some oomph into liturgy too because the words MEAN something. That's not how it's done though. Maybe it's my vanity or individualism coming through which are, both, contrary to the point of common liturgy I guess.

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I wonder how many folks who are introverts and feeling out of place in church are evangelicals? If this is the case, I would recommend checking out an Anglican church at least. Maybe Lutherans and Orthodox are similar. Catholic churches, I don't know. There are comfortable introverts and extroverts who are Catholic.

I am a textbook extrovert. As an Episcopalian, I sense that sometimes I appear like a bull in a chinashop. I don't raise my hands when we sing, or anything, but even something like reading scripture expressively or reciting a Creed expressively seems to bring an awkward silence on occasion. I would say that sacramental worship, high sacramental worship in particular, might be more comfortable for introverts. Exuberance in public seems more in keeping with folks like me, even though I am extremely uncomfortable with extroverted worship.

That being said, I like what Matt says about the borderline or middleground.

Rich, your comment resonates very much with me, although I am probably more of an introverted person with extraverted tendencies at certain times (confusing, eh?).

Three years ago, I was a member of a somewhat "liturgical" Reformed Baptist church (which may be unusual, for Reformed Baptists-- there were structured, planned prayers, reciting of creeds, and regular times of silence in the service), and I absolutely loved it. Currently, I am a member of a "Reformed-leaning" non-denominational church which has a much more loose, "praise-and-worship" pop-rock feel (the church does have rich, challenging sermons though and songs with thoughtful lyrics). At times, the music is so loud that it distracts me and discourages me from singing (I still do sing, but it can be a challenge).

For many reasons, I am considering either returning to the Catholic Church or converting to Eastern Orthodoxy. The overwhelming factors are theological/historical and ecclesiatical, not having do with music, the loudness thereof, or the fellowship in my current church. I have a bit of a concern about actually finding fellowship in Catholic or Orthodox churches, but I can't allow that to be the deciding factor for me, as to whether I continue on as a Protestant or change. Honestly, I already have changed in my mind and heart, but I'm not sure about the exact nature of that change at this time.

I once was a Catholic convert (from agnosticism), but I was not so well catechized, and for that and other reasons, I ended up leaving and eventually becoming a Reformed Baptist. Now, I'm facing the possibility that I will lose many of my Reformed, "Calvinist" friends, as those particular Protestant circles often don't take kindly to Catholic or Orthodox conversions (or reversions). Losing one group of friends, and moving to another tradition in which it may be hard to make friends, are very disheartening prospects, but I will go where I sense Truth leading me, despite the human cost. Introvert or extravert, I know that God will sustain me. I do hope that I will eventually find friends though-- as Thomas Merton writes, no man is an island.

Edited by Christopher Lake

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Agreed, Cheryl. But he made some very good points - the one about stereotyping has a lot of worth, I think. (At least, it's something I've run into a lot over the course of my life; have also seen extroverted folks who just don't understand why anyone would need, let alone want, "alone" time.)

I like how the author used the classic 12 step opening line to describe himself, too. :)

And that is one of the main points of the book, that extroverts just don't get the fact not everyone is wired for social interaction the way they are. Stereotyping is a problem--someone who is seen as not participating in all the activity is seen as stubborn, stuck up, snobbish etc. Or falling away, if they have been active and now aren't.

Christianity Today has a book review in the January 2010 issue, pages 67-69.

I like the way the author describes extroverts as moving in a straight line in their relationships--they start at the edge of a circle and zero in on the center, while introverts have to spiral in and out--move in for a while, then move back out, before looping back in again.

I need to look back through the book; my husband, who is an introvert with extrovert tendencies like Christopher mentioned and also a leader in our local church, wants me to put a bullet list together so he can present it to the staff/leadership. It'll be interesting--two of our staff, including our preaching minister, are introverts.

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I need to look back through the book; my husband, who is an introvert with extrovert tendencies like Christopher mentioned and also a leader in our local church, wants me to put a bullet list together so he can present it to the staff/leadership. It'll be interesting--two of our staff, including our preaching minister, are introverts.

If you do this, please post the list here. I'd love to be able to forward it to my pastor.

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I need to look back through the book; my husband, who is an introvert with extrovert tendencies like Christopher mentioned and also a leader in our local church, wants me to put a bullet list together so he can present it to the staff/leadership. It'll be interesting--two of our staff, including our preaching minister, are introverts.

If you do this, please post the list here. I'd love to be able to forward it to my pastor.

Will do. I probably won't start on it until the end of the week/weekend. :)

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Agreed, Cheryl. But he made some very good points - the one about stereotyping has a lot of worth, I think. (At least, it's something I've run into a lot over the course of my life; have also seen extroverted folks who just don't understand why anyone would need, let alone want, "alone" time.)

I like how the author used the classic 12 step opening line to describe himself, too. :)

And that is one of the main points of the book, that extroverts just don't get the fact not everyone is wired for social interaction the way they are. Stereotyping is a problem--someone who is seen as not participating in all the activity is seen as stubborn, stuck up, snobbish etc. Or falling away, if they have been active and now aren't.

Christianity Today has a book review in the January 2010 issue, pages 67-69.

I like the way the author describes extroverts as moving in a straight line in their relationships--they start at the edge of a circle and zero in on the center, while introverts have to spiral in and out--move in for a while, then move back out, before looping back in again.

I need to look back through the book; my husband, who is an introvert with extrovert tendencies like Christopher mentioned and also a leader in our local church, wants me to put a bullet list together so he can present it to the staff/leadership. It'll be interesting--two of our staff, including our preaching minister, are introverts.

I suspect the stereotyping cuts both ways, though. I can tell you that as a classic introvert, it took me years to realize that classic extroverts were not shallow human beings. I honestly thought they were. They were loud, boisterous, backslapping fools, totally focused on having a good time, to the exclusion of any thought deeper than "hey, where'd my beer go?"

This, of course, is ridiculous, and can generally be disproven by getting to know actual human beings. But I think there's a tendency to denigrate those who are different than ourselves.

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I suspect the stereotyping cuts both ways, though. I can tell you that as a classic introvert, it took me years to realize that classic extroverts were not shallow human beings. I honestly thought they were. They were loud, boisterous, backslapping fools, totally focused on having a good time, to the exclusion of any thought deeper than "hey, where'd my beer go?"

This, of course, is ridiculous, and can generally be disproven by getting to know actual human beings. But I think there's a tendency to denigrate those who are different than ourselves.

I understand completely. While I was always subverted (unintentionally) by the subtlety of my introverted younger brother as a kid and therefore did not havew an opposite prejudice to you, as I was shedding my fundie ways, I once thought that introverted girls at church were just those silly submissive types and not "liberated enough". Not necessarily so. Ah, the foolishness of youth.

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