- Paperback: 222 pages
- Publisher: IVP Books (November 27, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0830837027
- ISBN-13: 978-0830837021
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 154 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #642,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture Paperback – November 27, 2009
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"This is a timely and badly needed book which will encourage thousands of Christians who have felt they don't quite fit in. This book gave me hope that it was okay to doubt and be uncomfortable in some settings and group styles." (Jan Arkills, The Lamplighter)
A mixture of biblically grounded psychology, examples from Scripture, personal anecdotes, and practical advice on how to reach out to introverts as well as what to do if you're the Introvert in ministry. His goal is to show that introverts and extroverts alike have a place in the church despite how they handle relationships and process information. (Rachel Lonas, Pulpit Helps, December 2009)
Any introverted Christian who ever has felt misunderstood because of his or her personality type likely will find this book a revelatory, mission-affirming reading experience. (Todd Hoover, Youth Worker Journal, January/February 2010)
McHugh challenges churches to recognize that the significant numbers of introverts in their bodies have been gifted to serve in unique ways and to encourage them and open up avenues for service. (Pulpit Helps, November 2009)
Full-time and lay ministers within churches will enjoy reading this book to understand better the struggles and strengths introverts can bring to church ministry. Highly recommended. (Ray Arnett, Library Journal, November 1, 2009)
With clarity, logic, practical examples, and scripture Introverts in the Church offers ways for more reticent types to effectively serve, lead, worship, and share their faith with some helpful advice to the terminally introverted on how to be more involved in the world outside themselves. Introverts offers hope and reveals how more restrained people can approach relationships differently and practice spirituality in ways that fit who they are. (Jim Miller, Jim Miller Book Review, November 25, 2009)
"For the longest time, I've considered my wiring as an introvert a thorn in my side. After spending time engaging with others, I felt so empty and overwhelmed . . . and lonely. With my calling as an author and pastor requiring me to publicly speak and consult, I wondered if I misunderstood my place in this world. In Introverts in the Church, Adam brings a voice to those of us who often trade ours in for a little bit of respite. This is not only a needed resource for introverts; all leaders need to read Introverts in the Church for a better understanding of how introverts can lead, how they follow and how they refresh." (Anne Marie Miller, pastor, blogger and author of Mad Church Disease: Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic)
"As an author and consultant, I have seen firsthand the struggles that introverts face in a society built for extroverts. But I have also seen how powerful introverts can be once they embrace the gifts of a quiet and thoughtful temperament. In this deeply felt and beautifully reasoned guide for introverts in the church, pastor Adam McHugh shows the way for introverted Christians to find peace within themselves and their community." (Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking)
"As an introvert who has experienced both the strengths and weaknesses of my temperament, I appreciate the way McHugh goes well beyond the facile stereotypes and conclusions of armchair psychologists. If you've ever felt vaguely sinful for not being a gregarious Christian I suggest you spend some quality time alone with a copy of Introverts in the Church." (Don Everts, minister of outreach, Bonhomme Presbyterian Church, Chesterfield, Missouri, and author of I Once Was Lost)
"As a fellow introvert, I well know the tension, irony and even contradiction of being in vocational ministry where public speaking and being with people are major and vital parts of our roles. This book puts together extremely helpful thinking to better understand who we are and how to navigate and celebrate being introverted and in leadership in an extroverted world." (Dan Kimball, author of They Like Jesus but Not the Church)
About the Author
Adam S. McHugh (ThM, Princeton Theological Seminary) is an ordained Presbyterian minister and spiritual director, and a regular contributor to Susan Cains Quiet Revolution website. He has served at two Presbyterian churches, as a hospice chaplain and as campus staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He is the author of The Listening Life, which won the 2017 Christianity Today Book Award for spiritual formation, and Introverts in the Church, and lives on the central coast of California.
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There are a number of negative aspects of the book that prevent me from rating it more highly.
- The author paints introverts with a pretty broad brush, relying on stereotypes and eschewing much psychological or sociological research that could have supported his assertions more persuasively. Anyone familiar with Myers Briggs types knows that introverts can also be sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, and perceiving or judging. By the end of the book I realized that the author purported to speak for all introverts but was a very different introvert than I am.
- Too often the author conflates introversion with shyness. The two are distinct concepts and yet many of his examples involve shy introverts. Many of my fellow attorneys are introverts and yet I do not think that anyone would ever accuse us of being shy.
- The author's advice to the church seems to be that introverts should become more extroverted, or, as another reviewer put it, "get over" their introversion. Most offensively, the author repeatedly uses the term "healing" in connection with introverts without any such use in connection with the extroverted mainstream in modern evangelicalism. I think that a more interesting effort would have been to propose ways in which the church could more meaningfully incorporate introverts into the community while respecting the way introverts do "church." What about a move toward more contemplative communities that de-emphasize extroversion and sociality in favor of ways of community life that incorporate introverts, i.e., smaller groups, targeted groups, avoidance of pressure to join, etc. and an end to the pointless sharing. The final chapter offers some thoughts on this point, but makes no fundamental critique of the larger extroverted paradigm; I would have welcomed some more analysis and thoughts on this part of the culture. It seems like the author cannot envision another model of being the church than the contemporary North American model oriented to growth, entertainment, sharing, and extroverted activity. I got the feeling after a while that the author was a "Manchurian introvert" of sorts, more extroverted than he realizes.
- On a content-neutral point, the book needs significant editing, as the author piles example after example and page after page of less-than-distinguishable vignettes when a single example would have sufficed. When I read books like this, I cannot help but wonder if it started as a class, talk, blog post, or even a master's thesis, and expanded beyond the ability of the text to carry the weight piled on by the author. By way of example, chapter five seemed like it could have been rewritten as several shorter but more accessible chapters. Chapter six spends way too much time elaborating upon "traditional" examples of writing on leadership that focus on extroversion while the rest of the chapter discusses "introverted leadership" with much less verve; a better editing would have shortened the introduction and insisted on a bit more discussion of exactly how and why introversion can be a positive attribute in leaders.
I think that this is an important topic and I recommend this book for pastors and worship leaders who want or need to understand the introverts in their pews a little bit better. I don't think they'll read it, though, and if they do, they are (somewhat ironically) likely to be validated in the notion that what the church needs is more extroversion.
Certainly most churches appear to prize extrovert personality traits and expect their leaders to “be good at all things, to lead in every situation, no matter what the circumstances, and to always be available” (p. 119). The list of expectations that most people have for ministers, detailed by McHugh (pp. 118–19), is something that no one person could meet—thus reinforcing the idea of the value of a lay ministry and of leaders who have counselors and can delegate tasks to others. And McHugh is convincing that introverts can be effective leaders only as their authentic selves, which is true of everyone, regardless of personality.
The ultimate question of the book is the effectiveness of introverted Christians as missionaries. “Even at its best, evangelism summons pictures of animated extroverts, armed with quick wit, apologetic skill and the gift of gab” (p. 170). But the author persuades that some prevalent methods of missionary work—especially the model of evangelism as delivering the message we have come to “sell” and pushing for a quick commitment (p. 172)—are ill-suited to introverts as missionaries and as investigators. Instead, the author suggests that we approach missionary work as “exploring mystery together” through dialogue, sharing our stories and spiritual journeys, and eschewing the model of expert missionary teaching needy investigator; instead we become fellow explorers, discerning the influence of the Holy Ghost in each other. Thus we transform “awkward pauses into sacred silences” (p. 174). This develops the approach of meeting investigators where they are spiritually and exploring religious questions together suggested in Clayton M. Christensen’s The Power of Everyday Missionaries The Power of Everyday Missionaries: The What and How of Sharing the Gospel. It also reinforces the need to follow the Spirit and be flexible in meeting investigators’ needs that is a part of the LDS missionary manual, Preach My Gospel Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service.
McHugh also gives valuable advice to introverts about cultivating solitude and otherwise maintaining spiritual balance in the mostly extroverted church. He emphasizes that personality type is never an excuse to fail to serve and otherwise follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The author details the assets that introverts can bring to the Christian community and to leadership. Because different personality types sometimes have trouble understanding and valuing their own and each others’ needs and contributions, Introverts in the Church can be a valuable resource for everyone in church leadership, or membership.
Too often McHugh came across as apologetic for his introversion, suggesting mild ways of being more extroverted in order to be socially successful. The most useful part of the book for me was being introduced to the concept of social spiraling, which describes the phenomenon that is common to introverts where by after a period of involvement in a community, the introvert needs to pull away--- to spiral in and out of the community.
Personally, I am an Orthodox Christian. Eastern Orthodoxy is mentioned briefly in the book as a faith that is very accessible to introverts, which is actually very true. The biggest reason I picked up this book was because I happen to have a very extroverted priest, who sometimes sets his expectations for parish life at a very extroverted level, and I was looking for a way to communicate that in an irenic fashion.
So, while this book wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, I still found some useful information. I think the target audiences of pastors or evangelicals (introverted or extroverted) would derive the most benefit from this particular book.