An Introvert in Extroverts’ Clothing
“I’m not an extrovert, but I play one on Sundays,” a ministry leader once told me. I relate to that. A friend of mine refuses to believe that I am an introvert. Based on my ministry persona, she says, “I don’t get it. You are so talkative and friendly!” I am an introvert who knows how to wear the clothes of an extrovert.
As you probably know by know, an introvert gets energy from being alone, while an extrovert is filled through interactions with others. A few years ago, ministry culture started opening to the concept of introverted leadership. A book was written about us, and posts popped up everywhere celebrating ways in which we are unique. Yet for some reason, we ministry leader introverts still feel like we should come across as extroverts.
Summer is upon us, and we all know what that means: weeklong trips, camps, and intense events. For an introvert in extroverts’ clothing like me, this is a nightmare. Usually I immerse myself in ministry and engage in every way, but then I find time to draw back to gather energy alone. But that’s pretty much impossible during summer trips and retreats.
How can introverted ministry leaders navigate these draining months of constant interaction with others?
1) Be Honest with Yourself about Your Personality
The introvert in extroverts’ clothing is a complicated being. We know exactly how much time it takes us to refuel, yet we tend to ignore this. Extroverted ministry leaders fill every day with activities, overnights, camps and absolute fun. They have themed parties for each week their students are out of school. They go, go, go, and never seem to need a break. Some introverts know they can’t handle this and plan their summers appropriately. But the rest of us can’t help but compare ourselves with the extroverted leaders we think we should be.
Don’t let those perceptions dictate how you do ministry. Take an assessment of your goals for the summer and don’t be afraid to set up your schedule around that. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t plan loads of stuff for your students back to back to back. Instead, you could focus on one-on-one discipleship (which is less stressful and more energizing for many introverted leaders).
2) Make Space for Space
If possible spread out activities that require hours upon hours with people. For example, try not to schedule High School camp and Junior High lock-in back to back. We introverts pretending to be extroverts are great theorists: in theory we can handle camp, come home for one day, and then run the weeklong outreach. Reality is a different story. When we put our theories to the test, camp sucks the life out of us, and we are completely worn out by the time we get home. For about 24 hours after camps or mission trips, I can barely manage three-word sentences. Make sure you schedule space to recharge in the midst of the busyness.
3) Know How You Refuel
What refuels you? Contrary to what many people think, introverts love people. We just have to plan times away from groups of people or we get overwhelmed. In the midst of your crazy busy summer, make sure you know exactly what fills you up—then schedule it in. Is it coffee with one person? Or time alone with a good book? When I take a vacation to see friends or family, I love seeing people I’ve missed for over a year! But it’s draining. When I plan a break to truly recharge, it’s me and a book on the beach. That brings me back to sanity.
So intersperse your hectic summer schedule with vacations that energize you. Save draining vacations for slower winter months. And when you feel trapped at a weeklong camp or retreat, surround yourself with volunteers you can trust. Schedule shifts so that everyone who needs it has time alone to recharge.
The greatest struggle of introverts in extroverts’ clothing is that it’s hard for us to be honest with who we are. We know how to engage people and feel guilty when we would rather be alone. Take a breath, embrace who you are, and find ways to make this summer work for you. Honesty is often what makes us most effective.
Are you an introvert, an extrovert, or an introvert pretending to be an extrovert? Tell us how you stay sane during your summer schedule in the comments.
Feeling the stress of summer ministry and need a place to refuel? Check out our Refuel retreats, where you can recharge your heart, soul, strength, and mind.
About the Author
Leneita Fix co-founded Frontline Urban Resources with Jeffrey Wallace to equip, coach, and speak into the lives of those working with families living in a “survival mode” mentality. They refer to this thinking as the “new urban.” Combined, they carry almost four decades of experience in the family ministry setting, most of it in traditional urban ministry. However each… Read More