Quietly Faithful: Introverts in Small Groups

By Stephen R. Clark

by Danielle Dolin

“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 and I like people.

Thinking and thinking again before speaking

Most know that introverts need to get away from the crowds 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 small group, when the floor is open for discussion, while extroverts 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, just 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.”

Introverts may be slow to speak, but when we do, you’ll want to pause and listen.

Let’s pause for a moment of silence

As Adam McHugh suggests in his insightful book Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, many churches reward extroversion which makes 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 small group ministry? 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? Here are some tips:

  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. 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 appear terror-stricken or don’t make eye contact, 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.


Agree? Disagree? Have a question about this column? Email Stephen at cnjintrovert@gmail.com. Share your thoughts about being a Christian introvert!

Stephen R. Clark is a writer who lives in Lansdale, PA with his wife, BethAnn, where they are members of Immanuel Church. His website is www.StephenRayClark.com. He is a member of the Evangelical Press Association and managing editor of the Christian Freelance Writers Network blog. He is also a news writer for The Baptist Paper and contributor to the Englewood Review of Books. His writing has appeared in several publications. The content of this column is copyright © by Stephen R. Clark.

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