Can Church Be Home for the Introvert?
For a while, I was sharing a lot of angsty thoughts about my church—all the reasons it’s doing things wrong, and all the ways it needs to improve. While I still think those concerns are valid, I have found that they are bothering me much less than they were before, due to a combination of factors. One of them, I think, is that I’ve quit going to the service on Sunday mornings. Instead, I go to a Saturday night service called Ignite which is considerably more low-key, laid-back, and significantly smaller. I love Ignite, and every time I miss a service I’m seriously bummed out about it.
I’ve noticed, though, that I’ve become aware of a different problem with church—and this problem doesn’t have much to do with the institution itself and everything to do with me. See, I am a major introvert. Though I am generally friendly and happy to carry on a conversation, I’m downright lousy at starting them. It really defies my nature to walk up to someone I don’t know and just start chatting away. So usually, when I go to Ignite I just slip in a little late and let the worship songs sink into me. And I always bring my Bible and a notebook, because I can absorb the message more easily if I take notes on it. I really enjoy myself in my little bubble, but when the service is over, I usually glance around plaintively, half-hoping that someone will come up and talk to me. I’m anxious for conversation and interaction, especially when it’s about God, but I’m just an absolute pansy about initiating those conversations most of the time. So I usually just take the easy way out and leave early.
Well, the other day at Ignite, I actually ran into someone I knew—an older man who recently got hired where I work. That made it easier to talk, and it was no time before we were chatting away, talking about a pleasant variety of topics. Then…he asked me if I knew anybody else who attended the service that night. Mind you, I had just finished telling him that I’d been coming to Ignite for at year and a half! I pointed sheepishly at one couple, who I know reasonably well because I’m good friends with their daughter.
Aaand that was it. In a stunning moment of revelation, I realized that I knew nothing about a single person in the entire room—not their names, not anything about their families. Nothing. And as I said, I’d been going to this church for a year and half! I’d always just walked in the door, basked in the service, then quietly and promptly walked out. I was kind of ashamed to realize it.
I’m not really sure what to do about it, though. As I said, it is entirely against my nature to just walk up to people and start talking to them. I really enjoy deep, meaningful conversation, but I’m downright lousy at getting the ball rolling on them. And I know church is definitely supposed to be a place where those sorts of conversations are had; I just don’t know how to make church that kind of place for me while being true to who I am. Because while sometimes my introversion feels like it stems from insecurity, other times I realize it for the gift that it is—I can easily identify with others who are shy, and I can have conversations that dig into the meat of a matter because I spend so much time thinking about such matters. So I do think my introversion is a gift. I just need to figure out how to make it work within a church setting.