A Note from Mary Margaret West: As a textbook extrovert, I struggle to put myself in the shoes of an introvert. Abby’s post today is a peek behind the curtain with some really helpful tools as you minister to introverted girls in your life and ministry.
“To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 (CSB)
It didn’t take long to fully grasp how alone I felt in a room full of people. A room full of people that were supposed to be my people. I was attending a planned movie night at my small group leader’s apartment. Although well-intentioned, the group leader was unprepared and had not made an effort to choose a movie. In the midst of the chaos of indecision, someone suggested we just make it a game night. Of the group of about eleven, there was very little participation in playing games. Most everyone had paired up with another group member to chat about their week or some benign subject. Each one had their person to pass the time and share the superficial moments of their lives. Everyone shared a moment. Everyone except me.
This is just one example of how the lack of insight on my leader’s part and my own unwillingness to participate lead to my disillusionment and disconnection from my community in church. I knew my value to God was not determined by my participation in small group, but my fear is that others might retreat from Jesus in the same way they retreat from uncomfortable group experiences.
Of course, not every introvert is the same, but here are some tips from a recovering introvert who avoided youth group in my teens. Hopefully, it will make a difference with a student in your church who is currently missing out on the community God has planned for them.
- Introverts love a good plan, but do not like to be pressured into anything. Give us a small overview of what to expect during a youth night or small group without having any expectations of us.
- Small talk and aimless mingling make our brains hurt. We are all in the same place, don’t ask us about the weather. Instead, try asking us about our favorite subject in school… favorite music… and if they are anything like me they like classic sitcoms. A smile and interest in who we are as people is a lot more disarming then a hug or a game involving whipped cream on stage. (I’m looking at you, youth pastors!)
- The more sense of control an introvert has, the better they tolerate groups. Even if that means letting us sit quietly by ourselves while others are playing ping pong or four square. We promise we don’t feel left out. If you’re worried that we seem lonely just one check up will do, no need to take turns making sure we’re okay. We’re fine and if prodded too much we will awkwardly retract back into our shells and text our parents to come pick us up early. That sounds dramatic, but that’s how unsolicited social interaction can feel to an introvert.
Introverts may be intimidating to some leaders. I have scared off plenty of youth pastors myself. In spite of our quiet demeanor or habit of watching the crowd from the periphery, introverts desperately need community just like everyone else. Introversion is not the same as isolation. We were wired to take in our environment a little differently and leaders need to be patient.
If you are patient and not too loud, I promise you’ll connect with your introverted student and they may even become your favorite kid.
Abby Underwood As a self-described introvert, Abby Underwood has struggled with social anxieties her whole life. Once she fully realized her value in Christ, she overcame the challenges of loneliness and stress that had dominated her relationships. With her unique perspective of life and being pastored by some of the leading pastors in small group development and church planting, Abby determined to use her life experience to make a difference. Her new found joy and freedom fueled Abby’s passion to help girls find their identity in Christ. To encourage high school and college aged girls to step out of their self-limiting boxes and become world changers, she created the service group, Girls Leading and Simply Serving (GLASS). Abby works as a member of the social media team and student ministry at Life.Church Hendersonville.