An Introvert at Church

I threw a few magazines in my box of camping equipment since I hadn’t had time to read them yet.  And when a game of counting and strategy came out (I do neither), it was time.  I paged through The Banner, the church magazine I grew up with, and came across this article.  Which is interesting, because I’ve had a post in my head, titled “an introvert at church” for a while.  What I would have said would be more satirical for sure, but I found it interesting the Banner was covering some of the same ideas.

My article would start with a description of my understanding of introversion.  It’s not a dislike of people, far from it.  I love being social.  But it’s draining for me…it sucks energy.  I also prefer a smaller group of people, preferably those I already know because meeting new people is the biggest energy suck of all.   I’m not sure if it’s this way for all introverts, but I have major social anxiety going to a new place with new people.  Logistics concern me most of all…if I walk into a party where I don’t know anyone, what will I do? Where will I stand?  Who should I talk to first? Can I just hang out in corner and case the joint for a while first?

Which is why the bathroom is often the first place I head when I walk into a church building.  This isn’t just the church I currently attend…any church.  Walking into a throng of people is anxiety provoking.  And I don’t want to stand there, unsure of where to go, who to look for, how to not look like I’m lost. So heading toward the bathroom at least gives me a destination.  Then the sanctuary…to minimize the instances of wondering which corner to stand in, who to say hi to (or not), wondering what people are thinking when you do (or don’t) say hello, and on and on.

And then there’s greeting time.  Which I don’t enjoy, but have become okay with because it’s predictable.  Shake a few hands, say hi, it’s all good. You don’t actually have to have a conversation with anyone if you don’t choose to,  and you have a general physical place to be.  It’s a step down from the introvert hell of the fellowship hall.

Then there’s the service itself.  Sometimes the sheer number of people in worship overwhelms me.  You’ll almost always find me on the side.  That way I can sort of cast my gaze over to the wall or the windows.  Trying to worship in the midst of so much noise, distraction, and general masses of humanity is exhausting.  And I’m not there for me…I’m there to worship.  So I’ll often close my eyes or try to block out everyone else so that I can genuinely lift praise to God instead of being worried about what the people in front of me are thinking about my voice.

And by the time the service is over, I’m drained, spent. I can do lunch if it’s people I know, or just a few new people.  But standing and talking for any length of time is likely to put me over the edge.  Not because I don’t like you or want to talk to you.  I just don’t have any steam left.  And although yes church is about the body, it’s really about the creator, so I’m good if you don’t understand my need to bolt toward my car as soon as the closing words are spoken.

Which brings me back to the Banner article.  A friend asked my thoughts…I agree, there are times to push through. And find your place.  I seek out smaller groups of people, or opportunities to serve where you have something to do, so you don’t have to wonder where to stand and talk. And really there isn’t anything I disagree with in the article.  One of the things I love is “include time for contemplation, reflection and liturgical prayers…”

But when it really comes down to it, I like to run my mouth and so of course I have thoughts on the subject, but going to church on Sunday morning isn’t about me.  I can dislike a service or not enjoy the greeting time and that’s okay.  Sunday morning church is about corporate worship, giving praise to the King of Kings.  So I’m good with navigating coffee time and shaking a few hands in the midst of seeing God’s face, as long as you are good with me racing to the car when we’re through.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “An Introvert at Church

  1. Brilliant. I love that you are such an introvert, and I consider myself quite the opposite…yet we are such great friends. 😉 Enjoyed the read tonight.

  2. I really enjoyed this post and the article. I’m an introvert too, and I struggle with not feeling “normal” in church (at parties, at work, etc.) when everyone else seems very happy to talk to lots of people, shake hands, and have group discussions.

    The last time we went to the church we love in SF, the pastor initiated a group discussion during the sermon. My husband and I were so stressed by it that we haven’t gone back. That was nine months ago. We want to go to church again, but we are afraid that we might have to have a serious discussion, with people we don’t know well, during the service again. I grew up shaking hands, and I can deal with it. For my husband, shaking hands really really pushing it, so the discussion was much worse for him.

    I understand why the pastor wanted to do that, but now I feel like I can’t go back to church, which is really sad to me.

  3. I’m so sorry that was your experience, Beth…but I hear you. It’s the reason I have a drink before I have people over…to take the edge off. But yeah, sometimes church can be intimidating…I don’t think it’s meant to be that way, and I hope you guys can find a place where you feel welcomed…at home, even if you don’t love everything that goes on. I’ll send you a msg w/details on my church if you’re interested (no pressure). Thx for your comments!!

  4. archangel66

    Very nicely done. And thank you.

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