Years ago, I realized that I was different than the rest of my staff. When they took vacation, they looked for a big church to celebrate at (and learn from).
I love learning from other churches. Every conference is a great opportunity for me to learn how other people communicate with their members, follow up with visitors, structure their services, etc.
But when I’m on vacation, I want to get alone with God and not hear another human being.
I am an introvert. I get energy from being alone. I love deep contemplation, and my favorite place is the comfy chair in my bedroom where I can retreat … alone.
I am also called to God’s church. I delight in helping people discover who God created them to be and to walk out their calling. I love to build teams. One of my big delights is to put on huge events. Every event is an opportunity to develop teams who will carry out the event with such flair that my only job is to cheer them on. But then I need to get alone.
I am not alone, because 25-40 percent of the population are introverts, and a 2011 study by Adam Grant points out that introverted leaders tend to develop proactive, self-driven team members.
What do you do if the introverted pastor is you? How can you maintain energy and focus without running out of steam?
1. Be okay. Some people carry a picture of pastoral ministries that involves the gregarious pastor who is always the center of events. If God called you and didn’t make you that person, it needs to be okay. God was aware of your personality when He called you. If He didn’t give you an extroverted personality, then He has other people to fulfill those functions.
2. Be aware. If you are drained socially, take time to recharge.
3. Be proactive. One of the big things we face is other people’s expectations.
4. Limit your counseling hours. Every person has a people limit. Pastors seem to live in the crisis space of people’s lives. This makes counseling very draining. Figure out how many unexpected counseling hours you have every week, then subtract those from your maximum counseling hours. The remaining number will be the number of available hours you have for appointments (10 counseling hours – 3 crisis hours = 7 available counseling hours).
5. Let people know how you manage your time. We learn from others by watching. There are many introverts in your church who feel guilty because they don’t like coming to every event. There are also a lot of extroverts married to those introverts who think something is spiritually wrong. When you live confidently as God created you to be, you give others permission to do so as well.
6. Create time alone with God. Even more than extroverts, you need your time of solitude to hear God’s voice. Make sure your weekly routine includes not just study time, but also buddy time with God.
7. Be accountable. When you work with people, it is easy to get caught up in the wave and forget to take care of yourself. Find someone who will keep their eye on you and let you know if you are being drained. During a very intense time period, a friend took me aside and made a simple observation: “You’ve been using the word 'I' a lot lately.” What a gift. That simple observation showed me the status of my heart and the overload to my psyche. I needed time alone with God to get back on track.
Does this ring a bell for you? What are some of your tips for maintaining social equilibrium so that you aren’t drained by church?
Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at deepimprints.com. She writes a weekly column for ministrytodaymag.com.