As an introvert myself, I've always felt the need to look out for the shy teens in my ministry. So much youth ministry programming seems to be aimed at extroverts, from big events where we cram 100+ students into one big noisy space or games that require a person to interact with a group and look silly in front of everybody (just for fun, of course). There's nothing wrong with activities like these, but we at least need to be sensitive enough to reallize that for introverts they can be sources of stress and even make a teen feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.
It's important to have ways for introverted youth to participate without having to draw attention to themselves. I use a variety of approaches, including:
- Inviting youth to talk in pairs or trios about a discussion question before we discuss it togther as a group. This gives them a few minutes to rehearse an answer and perhaps be more comfortable sharing it with the group becuase they've already tried it out on someone else.
- Purposefully planning activities that incorporate silence.
- Making certain there is a balance between big group and small group activities.
- Allowing teens to "opt out" of group games and the like if they choose.
Now some thoughtful teachers have begun to see how Twitter could be used in the classroom (and, I would argue, in youth ministry) to allow introverted youth to engage in group discussions and share their ideas and thoughts in the safe space of the internet via Twitter. I'm sure some hip youth ministers have already started using this approach in large group settings (and some churches in worship), so why not also apply it to your regular ol' Bible study time or when your small group is just sitting around talking about poverty, or peace or relationships?