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Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture Paperback – August 1, 2017
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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)
"Introverts, take heart! As an introvert myself--an off-the-chart 'I' on the Myers-Briggs--I find certain aspects of church life, like speaking to other human beings every Sunday, really taxing. McHugh thoughtfully explores the gifts introverts bring to the church, and he considers both how introverts can live well in the church and how churches can be more hospitable to us." (Lauren F. Winner, Duke Divinity School, author of Girl Meets God)
"At last a book for and about introverts in ministry, and a wonderful book it is! McHugh unpacks the challenges and characteristics of the introvert leader in a ministry world designed for extroverts. He offers practical guidance for developing as a leader, evangelizing, joining a community, preaching and becoming spiritually mature in Christ. The book not only helps introverts, but it can serve as a great resource for extroverts who lead, coach, mentor or relate to introverts." (MaryKate Morse, author of Making Room for Leadership, and an introvert)
"This is a book that all leaders in the church should read! It made me realize that I owe an apology to all the introverts whose insights and contributions I have not understood or have overlooked. McHugh's perceptions are crucial for churches in our extremely extroverted society--we are missing some of God's best treasures for Christ's body. I highly recommend this book to everyone who wishes more thoroughly to understand the Holy Spirit's creation of a diversity of personalities and gifts." (Marva J. Dawn, teaching fellow in spiritual theology, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, and author of My Soul Waits, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly and In the Beginning, GOD)
"What a timely and badly needed book! Introverts in the Church will encourage thousands of Christians who have felt as if they don't quite fit. It will help them find their rightful place in Christian community, so that their gifts might be well used in the work of the kingdom. This book will also help churches to be a place where all people can flourish as disciples of Jesus. Adam McHugh has given us a precious gift through his openness, theological soundness and godly wisdom." (Dr. Mark D. Roberts, senior director and scholar-in-residence, Laity Lodge)
"Adam is addressing a huge number of folks in the church. Read it and heal." (John Ortberg, author, senior pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church)
"What Adam McHugh's Introverts in the Church did for me the first time was unmask the extroversion-shaped churches that we have and open up possibilities for how an introversion-sensitive church might conduct its business. . . . The reason our church is sensitive to introverts is because our leaders have absorbed the insights of Adam's Introverts in the Church and become one of those places of grace for introverts and extroverts." (from the foreword by Scot McKnight)
"Introverts in the Church changed my life when I first read the book seven years ago. Adam's voice on the topic of introverts resonated with so many people like me, who found themselves as introverts functioning in extroverted positions and living in an extroverted culture. In many ways, through this book I was given permission to be myself, and I have continued this work with my clients each week in my private practice. I regularly recommend this book to both introverts and extroverts." (Rhett Smith, licensed marriage and family therapist, author of The Anxious Christan)
"Introverts in the Church is thoughtful, validating, and charming. It's the book for all churchgoers who have ever wanted to disappear into their seats when the pastor said, 'Turn and introduce yourself to three strangers.' Adam teaches an important lesson: spirituality should not be measured by sociability. The introvert who quietly reflects on her faith is as true a believer as the extrovert who preaches exuberantly to others." (Jenn Granneman, creator of IntrovertDear.com)
"God must love the introverts, because he made so many of us. In this wonderful new edition of Introverts in the Church, Adam McHugh helps us see that there is a place for us in communities of faith. His wise observations are rooted in experience and deep study, and his advice is both practical and profound. So let us make a joyful quiet unto the Lord!" (John J. Pitney Jr., Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics, Claremont McKenna College, author of The Politics of Autism)
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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I was hooked by the preface. When he explained that we would have to dig in this subject to the point that it might appear that he was “feeding the impression that we are misanthropic weirdos”, I knew I wanted to hear what he had to say.
He makes a case in the introduction that introverts can thrive in the church. As he will do throughout the entire book, that does not mean that we introverts must deny who we are or act like something we are not. He makes a clear case that local churches today are all geared toward the extroverts. He explains how our culture values extraversion over introversion, though without compelling proof that it should be so. As we said before, he explained so beautifully what life inside an introvert’s head is really like. He clarified how we feel at some social gatherings or settings. He encourages us to quit feeling like we are weird or of less value, and to seek healing from the bad misconceptions that we have lived with.
He explained what introverted spirituality is, and though it’s easily distinguished from the extroverted type, it still has great depth. He explained how we are in community and relationships. We don’t live without community or relationships, but we are different.
Finally the book turns to the subject of leadership and introverts. There is an unsubstantiated belief that only extroverts make good leaders. Fact and history both prove this to be untrue. Some extroverts succeed by being charismatic, dominant, gregarious, or even a superstar, and can even operate a cult of personality. In some cases, the company doesn’t glean anything from the tightness of the followers of these extroverted leaders. In other words, it’s only been about them. He gives wonderful thoughts about how we might lead without yielding the essence of who we are as introverts. He is very practical in how we might be a better leader, as well as thoughts about a subject that most all introverts find difficult: evangelism. He concludes with encouraging us to make sure introverts have a place in our churches.
This book spoke to me. I’m convinced that every Christian introvert ought to read it. Further, it would be quite wonderful if we could talk a few extroverts into reading it with us.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
"Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture" (Adam S. McHugh)
Adam McHugh describes himself as a Presbyterian minister, spiritual director, wine lover, Seattle sports fan, and introvert. (As an admitted fan of Seattle sports teams, he's well acquainted with longsuffering and disappointment.)
Here's his thesis: Although introverts make up slightly over 50% of the population, the American culture and American church culture (particularly in evangelicalism) are strongly biased towards extroversion and extroverted leaders. Introverts can and should participate and lead from their own gifts, not by trying to be who they are not. And because we as leaders and the organizations we lead think positively of extroversion and negatively of introversion, we introverted leaders find ourselves leading inauthentically and ineffectively.
Introversion is a personality preference (or a wiring), and from the Meyers-Biggs typology system we find three primary characteristics of introversion. These characteristics are tendencies and not absolutes, but in my experience they certainly ring true.
1. Introverts are energized by solitude. Time with other people (especially large groups and strangers) drains us of energy. This does not mean that we are antisocial or impersonal, simply that we need solitude to recharge after being with people. Extroverts, by contrast, lose energy in solitude and gain it around other people.
2. Introverts process information internally. We need to filter information and experiences in our inner world. We can get overwhelmed by too much information or input if we haven't kept up on processing. Extroverts tend to process information externally, often by speaking though what they are thinking, trying out ideas as they speak whether they believe what they saying or not.
3. Introverts prefer depth over breadth. We tend to have fewer but more intimate friends than extroverts, who tend to have more, less intimate friends. We tend to have depth in fewer interests. We desire to deeply understand ourselves and our inner lives.
Given these tendencies, consider the average American evangelical church worship gathering. It is large, loud, multimedia focused. Interaction with other attendees is expected and encouraged. The expectation is that members will engage in large group experiences and in smaller group sessions, and will engage in a variety of activities. Leaders are expected to know everyone, at least in passing, but to be able to interact with each individual. Conferences and seminars are long, tightly programmed, busy and offer little time for reflection.
The most valued leadership traits are being energized being around people, being able and willing to lead a wide variety of areas and teams, being quick to speak and think.
We have a disconnect, don't we?
At this point, McHugh could simply complain about the state of the church, and issue a prophetic (demanding) call for change. However, he instead shapes the conversation in a healthy way - positively encouraging change by both introverts and extroverts (not discounting that both tendencies exist, but bringing both streams together as a whole).
Just to summarize the focuses of the remaining chapters, the book looks at spirituality for introverts (heavy emphasis on contemplative); community and relationship for introverts (finding the right fit and giving ourselves permission to opt out of the busyness); introverted leadership (lead by giving away; looking at Jonathan Edwards, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. as introverted leaders); leading as ourselves (give ourselves permission to not be extroverted and to lead from who we truly are); introverted evangelism (relationship wins, small and practical is great); and being an introverted church members (rethink expectations, give people room to process differently).
I've got notes and highlights and comments all throughout this book. It's not that often that I read a book that is so unique and yet so practical, and one that makes me feel like the author gets it (and me). Many times I thought, "Exactly! I'm not crazy after all; I'm not the only introvert who wonders if God called me just to laugh at my struggles."
So here's the bottom line.
- If you're a leader - not just pastor or teacher, but a people-influencer... in the church, or anywhere else
- if you're an introvert (and are worn out trying to be extroverted, even unintentionally)
- If you're an extrovert who just doesn't get why half your church doesn't think and act like you..
... you will be greatly helped and deeply blessed by reading Introverts in the Church.
If you lead a church with a team of staff, read it with them. Do a group discussion. Give introverts on your staff a voice. (Or if you're the introvert, hear from the extroverts).
I don't think it's at all an overstatement to say that this is an extremely important book, which may just save your sanity by reminding you who you truly are, and who your complement truly is also.
I would wish this book upon all the leaders that I know, in addition to Henri Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus, and Jean Vanier's Becoming Human. A Christian church which had wrestled through these books would change the world.