As a shy introvert who grew up in the church, I have early memories of hiding under the pew when greeting time struck, ducking behind my parents when overly friendly parishioners invaded my personal bubble, and hightailing it out the back door with my dad as my mom continued to socialize after the service.
I am a huge proponent of church. I see infinite value in it. I get things out of Sunday morning services that I cannot get from any other source, and I think regular church attendance is very important for Christians.
But the introverted part of me dreads a lot about Sunday mornings…or, at least, pre-quarantine Sunday mornings. (Introverts are breathing a collective sigh of relief right now as greeting times are indefinitely canceled – the Lord does answer prayer! 😁🎉) Church is usually, by default, tailored to extroverts.
Here are a few things introverts loathe about church that extroverts might not be aware of.
10. Being instructed to move forward after we’ve already chosen a seat. We all cringe when we hear it: “I don’t want to see anyone sitting in the back section! Everyone move on up to the front and fill in all the space available!”Ahh! No. We want to be anywhere but the front row. Introverts tend to feel unsafe when we’re forced out of the spots we deliberately chose. (Some of us even arrive extra-early to score the coveted back row seats. Not that I would know about that. 😉)
9. Pressure to get heavily involved. We don’t dispute that church involvement is great, but we require more time in solitude than extroverts do. It’s not super helpful when well-meaning extroverts push us to join seven small groups, a Sunday school class, and a serving committee (especially when we’ve already said no and they keep asking). What is helpful is when we’re allowed to choose our level of involvement without shame or pressure to do more. We want to be involved…just at our own speed.
8. Pressure to evangelize. We agree that the primary mission of the church is to spread the gospel and make disciples of all nations. But our methods may be different. We’re less likely to proclaim the name of Jesus through a megaphone up and down the streets, and we’re more likely to live by example or to share God’s love with the people who are already in our circles, as a general rule.
7. Recognition. We hate when we have to stand up when everyone else is sitting, raise a hand to indicate it’s our first time somewhere, or draw attention to ourselves. We especially hate having to be onstage or in the spotlight for ANY reason.
6. VBS. For some reason, this volunteering opportunity comes with greater expectations to act like an extrovert than any other. Everyone seems to think that all children prefer leaders who resemble a high school cheer squad. This may be true for many attendees, but I distinctly remember loathing all the stimulation as a child just as much as I do as an adult. 😊
5. “Tell your neighbor they’re looking great today.” Please, no. For starters, it might not even be true, and then we’re lying in the house of God. Secondly, we feel awkward saying that to a stranger or even to someone we know pretty well. We feel even more awkward hearing them say it to us.
4. Prayer circles. These make our palms sweat and make us want to bolt for the nearest exit. I know people who try to predict when the church will have us form prayer circles based on how long it’s been since the last time, and they’ll skip the service that day. I also know people who have actually left a church because of prayer circles. It’s that big of a deal – especially for people who attend church alone.
3. Being told what behavior to exhibit in order to be spiritual. “Raise your hands.” “Lift your voice.” “Speak your prayers out loud.” All good things. All godly things. But introverts get really uncomfortable with commands that insinuate we’re not spiritual if we do not comply. Challenging someone’s faith can be beneficial, but implied ultimatums can be crushing. Introverts aren’t less spiritual just because we may not raise our arms in front of a crowd, just as extroverts aren’t less spiritual because they may not spend hours of quiet time with the Lord every day. Personally, I’m not a fan of any group instructions that can potentially shame anybody who doesn’t accept the “challenge.”
2. Greeters at the doors. Do they seriously need three bodyguards at each door, inside and out? It’s nearly impossible to sneak in without being assailed by people. We just want to enter in peace! Quietly! Without fanfare! I know many extroverts who love that exact brand of fanfare, but if you really want to make introverts feel welcomed, leave at least one out-of-the-way door unattended. Our social meters have limits, and it can also make us anxious to be surrounded on all sides by people who want to socialize. It’s extremely intimidating to a lot of us.
1. GREETING TIME. This one’s in all caps because it’s the sole cause of dread and even nightmares for nearly every introvert. Forced socialization and physical touch with strangers, acquaintances, and seemingly the entire body of Christ makes us want to run and hide, and never return. This may be the reason we’re all in the back row in the first place (See number 10).
Introverts, do you concur? What do you like least about being in church? What do you love most?
Extroverts, I’d love to hear your thoughts, too! What do you love about church, and what can you not stand?