Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘This is too big a problem for one column’
Paul Kerensa takes a look at introverts and extroverts in church
Too many churches have –troverts in charge, which excludes –troverts like me.’ Can you fill in the gaps?
It’s a quiet schism within the Church. Or is it a noisy schism? Depends who’s talking, or listening. And alright, it’s not quite a schism. But if you think no one’s causing a fuss about this, perhaps the introverts are, but the extroverts can’t hear them over the drums.
All I can say is that last year, one pal told me too many churches have extroverts in charge, thus excluding introverts like him. Another pal reported the exact opposite: that as an extrovert, she thought too many introverts had taken over her church. Neither one felt at home.
I know what you’re thinking: They should clearly swap churches. The introvert is frustrated by the big shouty involvement at her church, the frequent encouragement to turn and greet seat neighbours, and lengthy discussions in duos and trios. He doesn’t want to feel like a second class citizen for not speaking prayers aloud, not coming to the front for prayer, not wanting to join in placing stones and worries at the foot of the cross. He mentioned this once to an extrovert leader, who smiled and told him that introverts don’t exist – he just needed to come out of his shell. I think after that, his shell seemed quite appealing.
Meanwhile, 300 miles away, the extrovert sits in a chapel of candles and tranquillity, longing for someone to cut loose from the meditation and make a bit of noise. She gets itchy feet when the prayers are too solemn or too long. She feels on the fringes of her church, wanting more of a natter than a dry sermon, finding those moments of silence a minute or two too long. It’s like attending a library each Sunday morning, as she parks her extravagant, socially outgoing behaviour at the church door.
Introversion and extroversion aren’t just about shyness. There are various differing psychological definitions but generally it seems to be about what refuels you, and conversely what drains your energy. Churches can’t be one-size-fits-all, of course, and they weren’t made for us but for God. To some degree, we have to slot in. To another degree, we want churches to be welcoming places.
Does your church have aloud communal prayers as well as quiet contemplative ones? Do you insist everyone joins in with the song actions on pain of excommunication? Perhaps, like our church, you have an energetic worship band but also an organ used now and then, for an ancient hymn to stir other parts of the soul? Is your minister an extrovert or introvert, and does that drive and shape the character of the rest of your church?
I can see both sides. I’m a certified ambivert – a little bit of both. I like hubbub and peace but both in moderation. I’ve written this article half in a library and half in a noisy Starbucks (that may have more to do with my laptop battery and the nearest power socket.)
This is too big a problem for one column. So, as self-appointed referee, I’ll take the next few issues to look at this conundrum. Next month, I’ll try to glimpse an extroverted church as an introvert, then the month after, we’ll ponder an introverted church as an extrovert. Let’s see if we can reach across the aisle and cause a song and dance about this issue – just not too much of a song and dance.
Paul Kerensa is a comic writer, performer and broadcaster
This article was published in the April 2020 edition of Reform