on November 7, 2009
More than 10 years ago a good friend and fellow missionary scolded me for being a "recluse", for being "selfish with my time" and "too inside" my head. Faced with this kind of harsh critique from a friend and brother in Christ in the past, I would have been crushed, either forcing myself to be "more social" or retreating deeper into solitude. However, neither happened because at that same time in my life I discovered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which helped me understand my own temperament. Not only did it affirm those things which were not flaws, but God-created characteristics, it helped me develop those traits in healthy ways. This was most true when it came to understanding what it meant to be an introvert. I have since used this tool to help people in spiritual, missional and community formation with great success. (For the curious, I am an INTJ).
That is why I was so thrilled when I saw the IVP was set to publish "Introverts In The Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture" by Adam S. McHugh. I received an advanced copy a weeks days ago and have already consumed. This book is one of the most critically needed works for the Church in our culture. McHugh manages to confront the extroverted bias in church culture without denigrating extroverts while encouraging introverts without letting them off the hook of their own responsibilities. Incredibly practical, deeply pastoral and a significant key for becoming truly missional people, this book is a prophetic message of hopeful correction and direction.
on November 9, 2009
If you've read all the other books about introverts, you still need to read this book if you are involved in a church. McHugh affirms introverts and helps extroverts understand and minister to them. The book is insightful, eye-opening, informative, practical, relevant, affirming, and challenging.
The book was healing for me personally as an introvert, and valuable for me as a leader of introverts. I received an advanced copy so I could preach two sermons to my highly introverted church. McHugh says "for some churches, spirituality is equated with sociability" and I sensed there might be a little bit of impatience with the introverts.
So using this book as my primary resource, one sermon was on "The Body of Christ" and valuing everyone, including introverts. The other was on "How We Grow" and helping introverts see ways that they could be more involved in church life. I got a lot of positive comments from introverts, and the extroverts married to them. One guy thanked me because he could stop feeling guilty about who he was. A lot of people said they could relate to everything I said and didn't know it was normal.
It's now common to hear people in our church say they understand someone's words or actions better because they understand the introvert-extrovert difference. It helped our leadership to change the conversation from "why don't they do anything?" to "how can we help them participate and grow?" I'm planning to also use the book as a class or study because it has discussion questions for each chapter.
on June 9, 2010
Few books really change me deeply. Directly. Powerfully. Never to look back. I didn't expect it, but this one had me spinning for days and still eager to consider the implications more and more. I'll be honest. I was in a rut. I still am trying to turn my way out. I need refreshment. I need recharging. I need renewal. And God has used Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh to show me how I put myself in the rut and how to get out. And that was just after the first 2 chapters.
What is realized is that I've been working hard for years at being more extroverted. After all, the more extroverted I could be the better I could function in ministry. I'd be a better evangelist and preacher and counselor and networker and so on. Imagine the hunger to be in constant interaction with the people around you in pastoral ministry. I romanticized that idea, but struggled to follow through. I have been streaky at best. And the more I felt guilty about it, the more drained I became and harder I worked to be something that didn't *click*. McHugh explained a picture of me in the book that opened my eyes.
McHugh helped explain my introversion in super-helpful recognizable attributes (p 42). I recharge best alone or with close friends or family. I need rest after outside activities and interaction with people. I'm territorial with private & family space and treat my home like a sanctuary. Small talk drives me batty. My brain is bubbling with activity no matter what else is going on around me. And so on. I think while reading this chapter I giggled with delight at the things I learned about myself that I knew but didn't know, if you know what I mean. Ok, I didn't "giggle." I'm a dude, after all. But I grinned big and in a giggle-y way.
Introverts in the Church gave me glasses to see myself more clearly as well as the introverts around me. And, by the way, it ends up being very helpful to understand extroverts since comparisons are so often made. Then McHugh weaves them together to show how we individually a mixture of the two since none of us are pure introvert or extrovert, and the church is also a mixture of the two having people of all variations. In many ways this book is really about the varied gifts in the body of Christ and how we need them all.
I think I've been duped into believing that the best gift I could give my church is to become more like someone else. I knew better than to want to be John Piper. But I overlooked the problem of not wanting to be an introvert. Books and blogs and Twitter and the rest are perfect places to develop extroversion envy. Through a number of things over the past year, culminating with this book, God has put me in my place. And for the first time in a while being an introvert the place I want to be. Now I'm working to relearn the rhythms that make sense for me to be me when I pray, work, rest, serve and enjoy the life and calling God gave me. For that work McHugh gives helpful chapters on introverted spirituality, community & relationship. leadership, evangelism and more. These chapters will be helpful friends to revisit along that pathway.
I think what I learned most as I reflected on Introverts in the Church, and what is changing most about me because of it, is that my best work for the church as a pastor is deep work. It's reading deep. Praying. Contemplating. Being silent. Enjoying the refreshing presence of God.
Introverts in the Church is one of the most important books I've read in years. It's not perfect. I may have written things a bit differently here and there. I might have used different examples and stories in places. And my journey is different than yours, so you may not have the same experience as me. But I believe it will help free people in similar situations as me to be who God made them to be. For that reason it's highly recommended for introverts and church leaders. I can't help but to think this will also be helpful for parents, coaches, teachers and to people working with people in numerous avenues of life.
This is a helpful book that describes the difficulties that introverts have in contemporary churches in America. It provides an illuminating description of how "extroverted" the modern evangelical church has become. The author shares many suggestions as to how introverts could more fully integrate into the life of these churches. It should be read by any pastor who wants to understand the flock better and how modern church movements like Alpha, the small group movement, Amore, and even the "coffee hour" can be extremely off-putting and even destructive to the faith of introverts.
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.
on August 31, 2010
Church should be a refuge from the stress and anxiety of the world. Unfortunately for many, services are, from start to finish, a cause of anxiety. As my wife and I visited churches in the past in search of a place to worship, we came to dread certain things: the endless, almost suspicious questions from total strangers, the forced smiles and empty words during the ever hated "meet and greet," the music leader's insistence on clapping, raising hands, closing eyes, (or whatever that particular person considers to be a display of true worship), etc... While some see these things as signs of liberated, spiritual worship, others see them as shallow, frivolous torture.
If you've ever intentionally walked into church late in order to miss meet and greet, or left early to avoid "fellowship," or been accused of not loving the church because you skipped the church super bowl party, then you'll be thankful for Adam McHugh's Introverts in the Church.
Not quite sure about the difference between introverts and extroverts? McHugh does a great job of explaining the two personalities, while correcting many of the misunderstandings. An introvert, he says, is not someone who is shy, anti-social, snobby, cold, or backward. Rather, an introvert is one who gains energy and strength from solitude and contemplation. Extroverts gain energy through social interaction, while social interaction drains the energy of introverts. Therefore, introverts need alone time to "recharge." They also prefer to spend more time thinking than speaking (that's not such a bad thing!), and they need more time to process thoughts. Most introverts can identify with McHugh's own preferences: "If I could, I would spend hours every day in my study--thinking, reading, and writing."
That's not to say that relationships are not important. Relationships and leadership are really what this book is about.
Many leadership "experts" claim that an extroverted personality is essential to being an effective leader, but McHugh challenges that. Though lots of extroverts are great leaders, both in and out of the church, there is certainly a place for the introverts. Pastors, after all, need to feed themselves before they can feed the flock. We could benefit from more thoughtful, studious, and contemplative leadership:
"In an increasingly fragmented, fast-paced, chatter-filled world, I consider the greatest gift introverts bring to the world and the church to be a longing for depth. Spiritually mature introverts offer an alternative to our contemporary lifestyle, one that is thoughtful, imaginative, and slower," pg 69.
"People who think before they act and listen before they talk can be very effective leaders. The reflective, thoughtful person may be able to learn, and encourage learning, in ways that people who can't stop talking are not able to," pg. 124.
And although McHugh jokes that introverts "write with a flourish, but speak with a thud," he shows that many are great preachers. "One of the most unexpected findings of my research was that introverted pastors felt very comfortable preaching, irrespective of congregation size. Many of them actually considered it their biggest strength and favorite part of the job."
I've often thought that because of my personality, I wouldn't do well in church leadership, and that still may be true. But McHugh's book has helped me see more clearly how aspects of my personality are strengths rather than weaknesses. His book also encourages me to build relationships, serve in the church, and engage in evangelism, even if the ways in which I do those things are different from how my brothers and sisters do them. Extroverts, especially pastors and other leaders, will also benefit from reading McHugh's book. It may help them think of ways to include the introverts in their church, or at least ways to keep from driving them away.
on November 8, 2009
As an introvert and ebook author (ebooks for introverts) I felt grateful and blessed to receive an advanced copy of Adam McHugh's book. As my mind wrapped around ideas both new and review, I could see God's hand in the creation of and love for the introvert nature touching each page in this thoroughly researched and deep analysis of the introvert personality and gifts. In nine chapters, McHugh shares his thoughtful and sensitive assessment of elevating the introvert to being able to effectively participate at every level in a church, including evangelism. This book is the opportunity for leaders, both spiritual and worldly, to understand the range of talent with which the introvert can serve. McHugh is an ordained Presbyterian minister, a spiritual director and an introvert.
In a detailed and often anecdotal style, he conveys thoughts and feelings, quotations of other ministers that fit the life situations of being more introverted. Imagine being mistakenly and regularly criticized as a recluse or aloof. Then, a clear distinction is made of what is more likely being seen: a true preference of solitude with "permission for solitude from the example of Jesus." That's freedom. Permission changes to a preferred disciplined practice outlined in detail from how to cultivate solitude, how to work in solitude and the rhythms of solitude. Could quietness then be sanctioned? "Privacy is something all introverts require and it has a way of naturally and psychologically restoring our energy levels." Following the contemplation instructions a conclusion: introverts in their own true to self contemplative style know how to listen to their hearts and then with spiritual maturity, can lead others in the spiritual maturity process.
More permission and continued endorsement that the introvert can participate, belong and contribute to a church with a focus on the introvert who wants to be more involved but in a different path than an extrovert. McHugh describes it as a straight line to the core when extroverts want to be more involved. The introvert's journey is more of a spiral with steps into and out of the community to recharge, reflect and readjust their reentry. If the straight line works for the extrovert, then the spiral path works for the introvert.
Most of the book encourages the introvert to use their unique personality and gifts in any area of the church community. Two chapters, The Ability to Lead and Leading as Ourselves, both encourages to fit in and break the mold for the typical extroverted leadership style. Quotes from leadership gurus like Peter Ducker, and authors like Richard Draft and Jim Collins, support a newly emerging leadership mold. Most true to the title of McHugh's book is how God said things to the apostle Paul; " `My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." 2 Corinthians 12:9
When McHugh listened to his quiet, inner voice he discovered he had to be the one to open the door for introverts in the church to know their quiet, effective manner is welcome in everything from serving, leading, worshiping and even evangelizing. His first hand experiences; the detailed analysis of the introvert personality and his personal understandings honor and respect introverts everywhere. Introverts and extroverts will find how to elevate their church communities by being more inclusive of a style that God purposefully created to be part of His great commission.
on July 2, 2011
This book is a BLESSING! As I was reading it, I almost felt like it was written just for me! For YEARS I have been struggling with the community aspect of Christianity. I am much, much more at peace reading, reflecting, and discussing spirituality and theology with a few select people. The thought of walking up to a complete stranger and asking, "How did you come to know Jesus?" turns my stomach. I have felt so inadequate. I have felt frustrated and just plain fed up with the social obligations that go with church. I've always felt like the problem is me (apparently self-blame is an introvert trait). But there is nothing wrong with me, I am just wired differently. The most important thing I got out of this book is that introverts like myself do much better with STRUCTURED socializing. We have servant hearts and are task-oriented people. We need to have a place and a purpose in the church. If we are in a position where our gifts are being used, we are far more comfortable talking to others. This is absolutely true of me. If I have a task to do with others, I am far more likely to talk than if I just sat at a table with a cup of coffee being forced to make small talk. This book gave me insight, answers, and healing. It is the first book that has made me actually want to go to church in a long time. I am so glad I read it!
on November 11, 2009
As an introverted Pentecostal, Christian life has been a struggle to be understood and appreciated for my quiet ways of living. After being told for years that I was unspiritual, unloving, and antisocial (among many charges that were simply false), I was confused and ashamed of my quiet personality.
Not anymore! It turns out that the spiritual gifts that I do possess - gifts that are recognized by the same church that told me I was antisocial - are gifts that I have BECAUSE of my quiet personality. Adam McHugh masterfully exposes the American cultural bias in favor of extroversion and the "gift of gab" that has crept into and established itself in Evangelical Christianity. Here, you will find solid definitions of introversion and extroversion. You will see how introverts process information and experiences (very different from extroverts) to come up with amazingly thoughtful insights and expressions of spirituality. Introverts and extroverts approach community in different ways, the former seeking depth and the latter seeking breadth. Both are needed for a healthy church. Also learn how introverts can work with their quiet personalities to become effective leaders and even great evangelists. Introverts are truly "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) by God for a purpose, one that only the introvert can fulfill.
on November 13, 2009
For every introvert who has cringed during a worship service that was just too action-packed and noisy.
For every introvert who has considered a job in the ministry, only to have second thoughts about the grueling expectations of congregations who assume a pastor will be endlessly gregarious, outgoing, available, and always "on".
For every introvert who has longed to share his or her spiritual gifts, but felt that being introverted made the prospect impossible, or at least difficult; or felt that the more extroverted members of the congregation didn't approve of the quieter, subtler, more behind-the-scenes efforts of introverted members.
For every introvert who has wanted to find his or her place in the church, Adam McHugh has written Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. And this is a book that is well worth reading.
Before I go further, I have to tell you all that while I have a spiritual life, and a deeply Christian background, I do not consider myself a Christian. However, I still know exactly what it's like to go to church services and need a three-hour nap afterward - services that are filled with lively, jangling music, interpretive dance, shaking hands and hugging, followed by coffee hours filled with the ever-raising volume of voices socializing and sharing experiences from the past week and plans for the next, fueled by coffee and glazed doughnuts - I've been there. The spiritual community I belong to now has been known to throw Sunday morning shindigs just like what I've described above. For an introvert like me, that's exhausting (and not terribly uplifting)!
I also know what it's like to be encouraged (which feels so much like pressure) to join committees and groups, to attend meetings and events, and to feel too overwhelmed with it all to be able to follow through effectively.
I know what it's like to try to do something, and come away feeling that because it's not a grand, outward expression of faith, it's not as worthy.
I don't want to make belonging to or going to church, or regular spiritual gatherings sound horrible. These things certainly aren't meant to be horrible. They're meant to uplift and to provide a place where people of faith can work toward common goals such as social justice, evangelism, learning and education and/or other spiritual pursuits.
But often these places and these gatherings and the cultures that are created around them are nerve-racking and tiring for introverts. Many of us would love to bring the word "sanctuary" back to the forefront, and be allowed to worship and share our spiritual paths with others in a calmer, quieter and more reverent manner.
This is where Introverts in the Church steps in.
In his book, Adam S. McHugh addresses the dilemmas I've described and more. But above and beyond that, he gives introverted Christians solid information from not only a scriptural viewpoint, but a historical one that is both encouraging and empowering. And looking at the situation of present-day evangelism, McHugh offers more hope for introverts who want to worship, share their faith, and share their gifts in a more quiet and focused manner.
As an ordained minister and introvert himself, McHugh also relates his own personal experiences in the church and in ministry - both his trials and triumphs, in this well written and personable book.
Adam's journey of ministry and evangelism is one that can be used as a positive example of how introverts can effectively share their faith, without betraying their psychological and physiological needs for solitude, space and silence.
Giving examples and stories from introverted believers and ministers, and wisdom gleaned from thorough research and experience, this book is one that every introverted churchgoer, lay-minister, and minister should read and study. This book should also be required reading for extroverted ministers and members of congregations, as a means for better understanding and harmony.
For those who are not Christian, there is still huge value in this book. Spiritual groups of all kinds often focus on outward action and outward appearances, forgetting that introverts have much to offer to congregations, and the means to provide other ways of sharing spiritual philosophies and joys with their peers and the public at large. I recommend this book highly.
on April 20, 2011
There were times as I was reading through Adam McHugh's wise and helpful book, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, when I thought he was reading my mind, representing my exact thoughts in the very words by which I would express them.
He and I are introverts, you see. We live among you. You will often find us out on the edges of the room, engaged in conversations with other individuals rather than participating in the raucous partying of the crowd. We may sit by ourselves in church. We don't always speak up or initiate conversation in small group settings. We may disappear for awhile from all the banter taking place during the family reunion and everyone will wonder where we've gone. And you might find us taking a walk or sitting under a tree away from the din of the festivities.
Being an introvert and learning to fit into the church is a major part of the story of my life, and I, for one, am glad Adam McHugh has told it so well.
In Introverts and the Church, Adam McHugh helps us understand first of all what introversion is and is not. It is not a category of person, but rather a balance of certain tendencies within all people. Each of us leans one way or the other. And there is no "mold" for what an introvert always looks like. Nevertheless, there are some basic characteristics of those who tend toward introversion as a way of encountering the world and relating to others.
(1) Introverts get their energy from solitude and from within.
(2) Introverts process information internally through observation and reflection.
(3) Introverts prefer depth over breadth and tend to invest energy into a limited number of topics, activities, and relationships.
So, what do these characteristics mean for introverts in the church, especially in America? In his book, McHugh describes how American evangelicalism is, by and large, an extroverted enterprise. Theologically, evangelicalism's emphasis on a personal relationship with Jesus leads to religious practices that are social and relational in nature. Its emphasis on the Bible as the authoritative Word of God and the prominence of preaching and proclamation evangelism leads to a culture in which speaking, crowds, and group activities are highly valued.
Historically, the extroverted expression of faith grew out of revivalism. We are heirs of a tradition which is, to quote Mark Noll, "activistic, populist, pragmatic, and utilitarian. It allows little space for broader or deeper intellectual effort because it is dominated by the urgencies of the moment." (p. 26) This kind of church, frankly, is suspicious of contemplative faith, seeing it as narcissistic and uninterested in mission. However, McHugh believes the introvert's perspective has much to offer the dominant religious culture.
One of 'Adam McHugh's goals is to enable those of us who tend toward introversion to learn to accept that this is how God has made us and that this is the temperament from which he wants us to relate to him and others in this world. We have a unique perspective to offer as a gift to the church, and we must learn how to live that out faithfully.
And so Adam McHugh gives counsel regarding:
(1) Spirituality: He encourages us to enthusiastically embrace the contemplative tradition and develop a rule of life that fits our introverted approach to life.
(2) Community and Relationships: He describes ways that introverts can participate meaningfully in the community of faith, offering unique gifts to others, and he identifies some pitfalls and challenges we will have to face.
(3) Leadership: Though Americans typically want their leaders to be extroverts, McHugh gives voice to alternative models of leadership that are gaining acceptance, models that carry with them many of the best features of introversion.
(4) Evangelism: McHugh points out many ways that introverted believers can faithfully plant seeds, engage in spiritual conversations, and "explore the mystery" of faith together with those who need Christ.
(5) Church Organization and Practice: McHugh encourages church leaders to be thoughtful about their church program, to recognize that many things they do may be excluding people who tend toward introversion.
Introverts in the Church ends with an appeal to introverts to find our place in Christ's church through making two movements. First, we must move into solitude to contemplate the great gifts our Creator has given us, to accept and relish his goodness and wisdom in making us as we are. Second, we must move into community, because this journey is not about self-acceptance or fulfillment, but about loving God and others. It is not only about finding a place, but living in that place for God's glory and the good of our neighbors.
For a time, Adam McHugh served as a hospice chaplain, and I identified with what he writes about the pleasure he found in visiting people in small settings and being with them in meaningful situations. And on the other hand, like me, he also found that there are ministry settings in the evangelical world that are simply too much about high-powered activism. As one pastor who interviewed him for an associate pastor position said, "This is a really high-octane environment. We're looking for someone who is excitable and high energy. You have to be totally sold out to work here. We work full throttle." (p. 26)
I'll be honest with you--I not only have a problem with a statement like that temperamentally, but also theologically. But that's a thought for another day. Let me just say that, as an introvert, I can only imagine how uncomfortable I would feel in such a setting. Now, factor in that slightly more than 50% of people in the U.S. are introverts, and you can see one reason why so many of us find ourselves in a post-evangelical wilderness.
Perhaps Introverts in the Church can lead some congregations to become oases for quiet travelers like Adam McHugh and me.