i, I’m Bill, and I’m an introverted pastor.”
I do not mean to make light of Alcoholics Anonymous, but I’ve always thought we introverted pastors need a support group. Until I find a group like that, Introverts in the Church serves as an excellent introduction to naming the challenges of being an introverted pastor in a church culture which idealizes the extroverted pastor. In this new revised and expanded edition, much of McHugh’s material focuses on celebrating the benefits of being an introvert in ministry. He also incorporates new studies recognizing introversion as being not simply a personality trait, but a temperament with neurological causation.
One of the challenges introverted pastors face is serving in a church culture highly influenced by the church growth movement, which makes the big personality, larger than life mega-church pastor the ideal. While studies have found that 75% of mega-church pastors are extroverts, 50.7% of Americans identify as introverts. The result is a significant percentage of pastors are striving to not just live up to the ideal of building a large church, but also striving to live out a temperament with which they were not born.
Introverted pastors have much to offer a church. Embracing a contemplative spirituality, introverts bring an approach to spirituality in the church that has been recognized as essential in Christian history. Solitude, reflective reading, spiritual writing, silence, and Sabbath rest are all foundational aspects of a mature spirituality which introverts are more inclined to embrace.
However, while introverts have much to give to the church, introverts are challenged by McHugh to not get too comfortable with their natural temperament. The reality of ministry is that it must be practiced in community. While introverts are naturally inclined toward study, reflection, and silence, all these must not be an end in themselves. Introverts must find ways in which these spiritual practices can become blessings to the larger church community. They must find a healthy rhythm of deriving energy and strength through the inward work of Christ and sharing the energy and strength outwardly with the larger Christian community.
While this book is a great resource for introverted pastors, it can also benefit extroverted pastors by helping them understand both their introverted colleagues and the introverts within their church community. Because the extroverted pastor has been the evangelical ideal, most church services have been developed to appeal to extroverts. Passing of the peace and times of fellowship are often seen as essential parts of the church service by extroverts, but are dreaded by introverts. Introverts often have much to offer in church leadership, but because they do not like to speak up at events, they are not often considered for leadership. Often introverted church members can be overlooked by the extroverted church leaders, because they do not lead in extroverted ways.
In the end, introverted pastors do not need a support group because they lack something necessary for church leadership. They simply need resources like this book to help them understand how to navigate their temperament within a church culture that does not often value the gifts introverts have to offer. Introverts have had much to offer the church community throughout Christian history, and if we are wise and discerning, we will recognize that we have much to offer the Christian community today.