Quietly Faithful: Statistically Speaking

By Stephen R. Clark

by Danielle Dolin

For introverts, it often seems like extroverts rule the world and everything in it. The reality is not straightforward. Some studies (mostly older ones) say that one-in-three people are introverts. Others (more recent) indicate it’s about a fifty-fifty split. In fact, a few give introverts an edge by a slight partial percentage saying 50.7 of us are the quiet ones.

Regardless of the actual split, extroverts, by their noisier nature, can make it feel like a world in which introverts are often sidelined. This should not be the case, especially in church! Yet, as Adam McHugh writes in Introverts in the Church (2nd ed.), the ideal of church engagement often means “the more activities and social interaction a person engaged in, the closer she was to God.”

In other words, the more extroverted you behave the more accepted you are and holy you seem. Growing up in Pentecostal church, I can relate well to this. McHugh opens his book asking the question, “Can introverts thrive in the church?’

The short answer is—or should be—yes! But getting to that yes can sometimes be a circuitous challenge, even though introverts are in the statistical majority. Here are two practical yet significant ways churches can help their introverted members feel welcome and comfortable. If you are a leader in your church, please take these to heart.

  1. See us. This requires an adjustment of perspective and preference. It simply means acknowledging that introverts are made in God’s image as much as are extroverts. Understanding that personality differences exist and are God-given is a crucial first and big step to validating your introvert brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Avoid promoting a message that being exuberant, outgoing, or visibly “bold” is somehow more spiritual or desirable. Holiness is fueled and worship can be expressed through quiet contemplation, silent prayer, and calm reflection. Both styles are needed for the overall health and stability of the church.

God created introverts and extroverts to complement one another, not to be in competition with each another. How an introvert lives out a specific gift will be different from how an extrovert will express that same gift. This is a good thing!

Simply put, louder is not better and quieter is not bad. Both have their place and should be valued and encouraged.

What’s the result when outgoing behavior is lauded and those who are unassertive sidelined? Those of us who are quiet feel unseen and unvalued. It becomes difficult to not feel resentful. A prevailing message of “loud is good and quiet is bad” is a sign of a potentially unhealthy church.

  1. Tell us. This one is a little easier. Introverts thrive on information. Due diligence helps us to be confident and not feel stupid as we navigate new environments. The more information an introvert can arm themselves with, the more comfortable they will be participating.

Something as simple as keeping your church website and app up to date will go a long way to helping us find our place in your church. Be relentless in doing this!

Make sure the posted calendar includes all that’s happening with full details. Double-check links to ensure they are working. If changes have been made, get them posted ASAP.

When announcing a new event, be clear about who it is targeted to. If it’s aimed at parents with kids, make that abundantly obvious. Don’t hesitate to over-communicate about what’s happening, where it’s happening, who is invited, and so on.

Encourage leaders to keep small group details accurate and complete wherever the information is posted online or in print. This will make it easier for introverts (and extroverts!) to engage in these groups. Never assume “everyone knows” about an event or where it’s happening, because there will always be someone who doesn’t.

Taking these two guidelines to heart will help ensure the introverts in your church can thrive and feel valued.

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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