Discussion: Introverts and the Church Service

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I know you.

The church service starts at 10:30, so you pull in to the crowded parking lot at 10:25.  You have just enough time to make it to the building and find a not too crowded row to sit in before the first song begins.

At greeting time, you shake hands with a few people.  That means anyone sitting within a three foot radius who initiates the greeting.  Long before the greeting time is over, you're seated and waiting for what seems like every other person in the building to tell their life stories to each other.  Finally, it's over and you get some peace when the band or piano starts to play.

But when the pastor stands up, you may find the pressure coming back.  This guy always wants participation!  If he greets the room with a loud "Good morning!" he expects to hear it back.  If he doesn't get a loud enough response, he asks for it.  Because good Christians are happy Christians and happy Christians are loud Christians.

In the middle of the sermon, he wants to make a point.  So he tells everyone to talk to each other.  "Tell the person to your right that God loves them!"  "Tell the person to your left that God loves them!"  Nearly everyone participates while you sit awkwardly, wondering how this really helps.  And trying to avoid looking completely awkward when the person three spaces down wants to remind you that God loves you.  And then they'll expect you to return the favor.

Church is hard for introverts.

Even though I'm not always comfortable with a church service that seems tailor-made for extroverts, I don't think I would like a church service that's suited for introverts either.  I do think a compromise is in order.

Introverts of the blogosphere, I'd love to hear what you think of the extroverted bias churches tend to have and any suggestions you might have for making the church service more introvert-friendly.  

My suggestion is to not speak down to (whether it's in "good fun" or not) those who choose not to participate in the more extroverted activities.  I know it's not about our comfort, but if every week we're expected to pretend we're extroverts, attending church is going to become a negative experience rather than a positive one.

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7 Responses to Discussion: Introverts and the Church Service

  1. I prefer to arrive at church early, so I don't have to walk through large groups of people, socializing in the foyer before entering the sanctuary. I don't want to take the chance of someone talking to me before I find a seat. I hate the "greet someone near you" portion of the service. It feels so forced and fake.

    To tell you the truth, I have quit going to church for a couple of reasons. One of the reasons is because people kept talking to me, making small talk that doesn't feel genuine. Another reason is that I don't feel like the pastor is talking to me, for the most part. As a single parent, I don't really feel like I belong there. I feel like I have a huge scarlet letter on my chest and feel more lonely in church than out of it.

  2. Melissa, in a sad way, it makes me laugh that you quit church because people kept talking to you. That is exactly what I'm talking about! I'm sorry, though, that you had more reasons than just that to leave. I wonder if it would be worthwhile to call around and see if you can find a church that has small groups for single parents. NOT support groups but life groups. And I imagine it is likely that if they have them, you might be able to find one that is gender separated. Nobody wants to feel like they're in a live version of the dating game every week.

    The times I most feel like part of "the church" is when I'm connected to a small group of people in the same stage of life as me. It's hard at first, but when you find the right group, with some work, it's fantastic.

  3. At the moment, I have one night a week home with my kids because of school and work. I don't think I'm willing to give that up to go socialize with people who I have no interest in getting to know. Friendships take effort and time. One is something I don't want to put forth and the other is something I don't have. Also, as an extreme introvert, I can't see myself making those calls or joining a small group where I don't know anyone, especially a woman's group. It just isn't in my nature. I know that I should step out of my comfort zone, but knowing that doesn't mean I would do it.

  4. I laughed about your arrive at church time-I prefer to arrive just after the start of the service, because if I go before it starts i have to find a way through throngs of people chatting in the foyer- it's a difficult and uncomfortable obstacle course! ONCE I'm in I cope well, and when service ends I find 2-3 people I relate easily too= other introverts- and chat to them so I don't seem unfriendly- i never join the throng in the foyer for coffee- way too uncomfortable.A few others who are like me are happy to talk inside the auditorium where we are not surrounded by people.
    i feel blessed that I don't have to " perform" through the service- if action is required- I am happy to stay seated with a close friend or two who tend to do the same.
    I would prefer a way INTO the building that I could slip in through, unnoticed ~!

    Thanks for this post- I love it that there is discussion about Introverts in the church since the book by that name came out. It's good to educate others so they can understand us and not judge us and find us rude or unfriendly, cos we're not !

  5. Mary, we used to attend a mega church and every entrance was manned by several greeters who opened the doors and insisted on greeting you. It drove me crazy! And then we found the secret door! It was one random door that opened into a hallway that was either overlooked or deemed impractical for having a greeter. It made me so happy, having one door that was "safe" to enter.

    I haven't read the book yet, but I definitely want to!

    Thank you so much for coming by!

  6. a secret door- unmanned- every church should have one marked for introverts only !
    Adam McHugh's book has been a great help to me and to friends who are introverts- he has a blog, also. Hope you get to read it sometime. Don't feel you need to reply :)


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