Monday, March 25, 2013

    Are You Caring for the Introverts in Your Youth Ministry?

    In my experience, many pastors I meet fall at least somewhat on the introversion side of the personality spectrum. Their introversion allows them to cultivate many of the gifts helpful for effective ministry: the ability to listen deeply, encourage introspection, and lead others without the need to take center stage. 

    Conversely, most youth ministers tend to be extroverts (you may disagree but I'm just sharing what I've observed over several decades working with youth ministry colleagues.) Considering the energy it takes to work with teens, it makes sense that many youth ministers are outgoing, enjoy being around large groups of people and have a high tolerance for noise and commotion. In fact, they might even thrive under such conditions which may explain why so many youth ministries are centered around programming that involves large group activities, wild games, lock-ins and road trips.  

    But it's important to remember that at least some of the youth in our ministries are introverts -- those individuals who tend to give of their personal energy to others and can be quickly tired out when being with a group. These teens need opportunities for small group experiences, silence, rest, quiet prayer, and the permission to opt out of high energy activities when they need time away from the group.  Think back over your last few youth gatherings. Have the activities been primarily aimed at the extroverts? What opportunities were included for quiet reflection, one-on-one interactions, or low-key activities?

    This article suggests several helpful examples of things not to do if we seek to be more sensitive to the introverts in our ministries.  I particularly like this one: 

    “Since you’re not doing anything...” Sitting quietly and staring into space is doing something. It does not mean I’m waiting for a nice chat."

    For a more thorough study of the qualities and needs (and special gifts) of introverts, check out the texts The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking.

    What about you?  Introvert? Extrovert? (Not sure? Take the quiz.) How does your personality type affect your ministry? How do you attempt to meet the needs of both personality types in your youth ministry? 


    angie said...

    I'm not sure what I am. I don't totally identify with either. So I'm pretty sure I'm an ambivert. Either way, I try to pay attention to this in my ministry, but it is just so hard. Even as someone who understands pretty well the need for space and the hatred for typical gregarious youth ministry stuff. (ok, not hatred...) It is hard to sort out when someone just needs space and when someone needs space but also someone to talk to and sort something out. And also to sort out when someone isn't engaging because they are being difficult or they just need an invitation to be included. It's sometimes so dang complicated! :)

    Brian Kirk said...

    Angie, I definitely agree that it's complicated,especially since none of us are totally introverted or extroverted. For me, the trick is to balance activities so that at any given meeting there are both opportunities to engage together as a whole group and opportunities for silence, quiet, and more intimate interactions. It's a tough balancing act, to be sure. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Eric Hickman said...

    I am an introvert and have sometimes found it hard to relate and gain confidence with the youth I have worked with. I also agree with Angie-it can be very hard to "read" your audience and deliver a message that will impact them the best.

    Skittles0211 said...

    But what should you do if a youth pastor doesn't respect an introvert and tries to do something like make them sit in the front row? Because I'm at a loss and I'm sick of being forced into anything. I don't believe that you should be literally forced to do anything in church, it's not right. Like, God doesn't care if I sit in the back, or if I'm downstairs having devotions pertaining to my friend's issues rather than in Sunday school playing games that we're not comfortable with like charades. My old Youth Pastor that left about eight months ago respected all of us, and even encouraged us to have devotions on our own if it was what we wanted, but the new Youth Pastor doesn't seem to care, and literally yells at my friends and I to do things like sit in a certain pew or go to Sunday school, even though there's no logical reason, we're not disruptive or anything. Please, someone give me some sort of advise...