A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert; most assume that pastors (especially ones that are comfortable preaching) are natural extroverts. But I’m telling you that it isn’t always the case. Which got me thinking…
What challenges do us introverts have when we are called to work in people-centric jobs that are seemingly built for extroverts?
For any introvert, working in a job where being an extrovert is the norm can be challenging, but not because we’re not called to do the job. It’s because we are emptied out with the people parts of the job while extroverts are filled up. I’ve found myself in situations where I’m expected to be the life of the party and initiate conversations. These are all things that I’ve been told I do well and that are exhilarating to extroverts, but for me, they are draining.
One of the biggest challenges I face is wanting to exit conversations before the other person is done (I fear.) If someone texts me a question and I answer it with finality, I dread seeing those three dots pop up (denoting that the other person is typing a response.) Invariably, it’s almost always “K” or “Thanks.” It’s the texting form of sending someone a Thank You Card. I’m horrible at those too.
Look, I understand the importance of saying “Thank You.” It takes a lot of energy for me to put myself out there, and I often feel like I’m not making a good impression.
Another challenge is teamwork. While I work well with others and can contribute to group projects, I prefer to work independently. I can usually see a strategic pathway to get something done and it takes me less time to just do it myself then to explain, let alone fight for how I think something should be done. Then there’s my direct way of speaking that can put people off, which can be difficult in a group setting where collaboration is key.
Despite these challenges, being an introvert has its strengths. I’m a deep thinker, I’m low maintenance, I don’t need to be entertained, and I pay attention to the dynamics of a room. These are all qualities that can be valuable in the workplace. There are some pastors that crave to use their gift of preaching in front of a congregation; that struggled during the “preach to the empty room” of the COVID era and missed the energy the congregation gave to them in their delivery. Also, extrovert pastors can many times struggle with study and sermon prep, yearning to be freed from the shackles of introspection.
I am not one of those people. I have largely preached because others have encouraged me to preach. Sunday afternoons after church, I tend to be exhausted even if I don’t preach; this pastor needs recharging after the physical, emotional, and spiritual outpouring from an introvert vessel.
I think this is important for any introvert to remember:
Being an introvert does not disqualify you from a people-serving calling. It just means you have different strengths and pitfalls from an extrovert.
And if you’re an introvert in an introvert-friendly job, I think you’ll find this quote from Susan Cain encouraging:
“Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.”
It’s a reminder that just because you don’t thrive in a social or extroverted setting doesn’t mean you’re not doing great and valuable things.
I find comfort in knowing that God created me just the way I am. Psalm 139:14 says,
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
God doesn’t make mistakes, and He created me with my introverted tendencies for a reason.
Being an introvert in a job where being an extrovert is expected can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. I’ve learned to embrace my strengths as an introvert and keep a healthy ministry/life balance. I’ve found ways to balance my desire for alone time with the demands of my calling. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, remember that we all have something unique to offer in the workplace and in ministry.
Finally, I’ve realized that God consistently uses nonsensical (to us) pairings of people and callings to bring Him glory and teach us the following:
For introverts, God is enough; He can fill you when you are poured out.
For extroverts, God is enough; He can fill you when you’re in a moment (or season) of solitude.
Love this! So true in my on life.🙂