How to Lead Introverts into Bible Engagement
Five Ways to Connect with the Quiet Ones
“Hi. My name is Stephen. I’m an introvert. It’s been three days since I’ve spoken to anyone, and that makes me happy. Please go away now.”
Is this how you think of introverts? If so, you’re wrong. Well, wrong-ish.
I am an introvert. I was born this way. While I now understand that this is a normal personality style, I once felt as if God had played some cruel joke on me. Especially since we went to a Pentecostal church.
“Can I get an AMEN!?!” Not from me, no.
Being in what was often a rowdy environment, where it was assumed, wrongly, that the louder you hollered the holier you were, was actually painful for me. As well as confusing and crushing to my self-esteem.
I’m not knocking any particular religious tradition. Nowadays lots of churches have lively worship, and that’s great. But those who are too quiet in services like that are sometimes viewed as spiritually challenged.
All in the timing
You probably know that introverts need to get away from the crowds sometimes to recharge, and that we often need time to process our responses, but have you thought about how introversion affects the experience of group Bible study?
For example, in a Sunday school class, when the floor is open for discussion, while extraverts jump right in with comments, we introverts are still processing our thoughts. In fact, by the time we’ve formed a response we’re comfortable sharing, discussion time is often over and the leader is saying the closing prayer.
These are sad times for us because we really had a pithy and winsome insight to share.
No, introverts are not slow, but rather are more intricate thinkers. We carefully weigh things mentally, or as I like to say, mull. When we finally share, it’s important to us that what we share is meaningful and accurate.
As Val Nelson states on the Quiet Revolution website, “Introverts prefer to think before speaking, to take in a lot of information about what’s happening in the room, and to integrate all that into a new contribution. All that internal processing doesn’t happen instantly, but it’s important, and it brings a valuable perspective to the conversation.”
Rather than engaging in “brainstorming” and batting around half-formed or random thoughts, introverts prefer to present something more fully put together.
Introverts may be slow to speak, but when we do, you’ll want to pause and listen.
Let’s all just take a breath and pause for a moment of silence
Yet, as Adam McHugh suggests in his insightful book Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, many churches reward extraversion and make introverts feel out of place, creating “environments that are intimidating and unnatural for introverts.”
What can you do to reverse that trend in your own Bible ministry? As you lead people into greater Scripture engagement, how can you make sure you’re not leaving the quiet ones behind? And how can you help them contribute to a group Bible study process?
1. Tolerate the natural silences and gaps in discussion times. In these moments, an introvert can gather his or her thoughts and muster up the courage to speak. Be patient.
2. In fact, you might go a step further and create time for reflection in group meetings. Give people a chance to write down answers to a key question. Or just give a minute of thinking time before beginning a discussion.
3. Pay attention to the introverts and check in with us to see if we have something to share. Read our face and body language to discern a desire to speak up. If we don’t make eye contact or appear terror-stricken, check in with someone else.
4. Avoid insisting that we say something. Be careful about going around a circle and having everyone respond in turn. That could strike terror in our hearts.
5. Keep in mind we might have something to say later. Circle back at the end of meetings to pick up comments that might not have been ready earlier. Again, don’t be afraid of the silence as you wait for us to speak up.
The first sentence in McHugh’s book asks, “Can introverts thrive in the church?” The answer must be, “Yes!” Why? Because we are all created in God’s image and are called to be contributing vital parts of the Body of Christ.
For those of us who are introverts, this may mean giving us a little quiet space as we express ourselves in the way God shaped us. All I am saying is give the quiet ones a chance.
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