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Connecting Introverts in Your Youth Ministry - Part 1

Thu, 11 Jul 2013 - 2:20 PM CST

In her book Quiet, Susan Cain writes about a recent visit she made to a California mega church. Within minutes of walking in the doors, Cain noted that the Sunday worship service, while beaming with enthusiasm, was largely geared toward extroverts. Almost every item on the run sheet, from singing to hand-shaking, appeared bred for the extrovert mind. Even a person's spirituality, Cain writes, seemed to be based on their outward sociability.

As an introvert myself, Cain's observations didn't come as a surprise. In a world where Christian maturity is frequently defined by passion, I often found myself out of place as a teenager. Does not doing the Cupid Shuffle when the band plays a fast song mean I'm not as spiritual as those who do? What about my place in the youth ministry? Can I still connect with others if I'm not the kid who runs around with our group's logo painted on my chest?

What if we as student pastors are looking at youth ministry all wrong? Could it be possible that we are hurting what God is doing in the lives of introverts by setting extrovert standards in our group?

Maybe you've struggled with connecting introverts to your ministry. How can you as a youth worker mold an experience that will appeal not to just the extrovert, but the introvert as well? I'll be answering this question in the next couple of articles by sharing with you some tips I try to implement in my group. In this post, I start with the social aspect of introversion.

  1. Create a setting comfortable to both extroverts and introverts. Having everyone give each other bear hugs as you transition out of worship sounds like a good idea, but it might not be the most comfortable for introverts. It's possible that calling all of the students down to the front during "How He Loves" is a little awkward for some. Craft a youth service where both introverts and extroverts feel their personalities are welcome. You can do this by making sure there's a balance of intimate as well as large-scale moments. Mix up group games with partner-style activities. Have small-group or private prayer along with altar calls. Think close and big.
  2. Help introverts form relationships with one or two other people. If you drop introverts into a large group of students, odds are they'll spend most of the conversation as a quiet observer. Instead, try introducing them to one or two other teenagers their age. Another idea is to put them on a small ministry team. This will give these students an opportunity to serve and form relationships with those around them.
  3. Get to know introverts in a small group setting. As an introvert, I prefer getting to know someone at a small coffee shop over a loud noisy youth room. One on one time is how I build my relationships. If you have a quiet student that just doesn't seem to connect, try going out with them for a soda.
  4. Just because an introvert isn't talking, doesn't mean they are uncomfortable. Sometimes introverts like to observe. It's not always creepy or uncomfortable. Be okay with students who are quiet. It's possible that they're enjoying the atmosphere and really don't have anything they feel like saying at the moment. This is where wisdom decides if silence is self-imposed or a sign of disconnect.

Introverts aren't better or worse than outgoing individuals, they're just different. By understanding their uniqueness, youth leaders are better equipped to make both groups feel welcome in their ministries.


Follow Wade on Twitter (@WadeHance) and check out his blog at www.wadebearden.com.

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