Dear Introverts, We need You to Plant Churches, too
Church planters come in all shapes, sizes, and personality types. In the early days of planting our church, I read books upon books on the subject. A few of them attempted to describe the type of person who plants churches. The emphasis was upon their personality which leaned hard toward extrovert.
One of the books listed four basic types of church planters and intimated that the introverted person would be “least likely to succeed”. In similar fashion, some have tried to pigeon-hole certain strengths on the Strength Finders scale as “church planter” material. Personally, I am a strong I on the introvert scale and I possess none of the so-called church planter strengths.
As an introvert, sometimes I do wish I had the energy of my extrovert colleagues, but that is not how God created me. However, He did call me and equip me for such a task as this. My guess is God has called other introverts to plant churches as well. Here are seven tips I have found helpful in planting a church.
Schedule your people time
The introvert/extrovert personality trait is not about liking or disliking people. It is about how you spend your energy. Introverts spend energy when they are with people. Extroverts acquire energy when they are with people. Therefore, schedule your time with people in a way that you can afford to spend your energy. If you know you are going to spend a few hours with a group of people, then you need to take extra time alone to acquire the energy you need to spend.
I try very hard not to spend Saturday evenings out late with people. I know I will need that energy for Sunday morning. On the occasions when I need to be with people on Saturday evenings, I plan some alone or study time before hand.
Do tag-team outreach
Be intentional about your outreach teams. When we plan outreach events, I try to pair myself up with an extrovert. An extrovert helps me when I run out of small talk topics. They also enjoy talking which gives me a break and allows me to do what introverts do best: listen.
Create a list of conversation starters
One of the fastest ways to drain your energy is with small talk. Most of us introverts cannot talk trivia for very long. We do well with deep conversations and often find those energizing. I have created a list of conversation starters for different situations.
I have written out things I might say in common situations. For example, I have a list of different ways to introduce myself to new guests on Sunday morning. These are limited to 3-4 sentences/questions which I use repeatedly. These are new guests. They have no idea I use the same conversation starters with everyone.
I also have a list of questions to open up discussion. I use open-ended questions, rather than yes or no. If I can get them talking about themselves, then I am succeeding.
Establish a pattern
I hate talking to strangers. Most introverts do. I was recently at a conference with one of our church leaders who happen to be an extrovert (see tag-team above). We were there maybe five minutes and she was in a full blown conversation with someone she had never met. I think they had exchanged phone numbers within ten minutes of the conversation. Dear introvert, it’s not going to happen for us!
Instead, I have established patterns and routines that put me in places where people will approach me instead of me approaching them. All I have to do is smile and be approachable. Once I have established a pattern, I begin to feel more comfortable approaching them as well.
Utilize social media
If you’re an introvert and you’re not using social media…what is wrong with you? Social media is an introvert’s dream come true! You can connect with multiple people while actually accruing energy. Social media, email, and texting should be your top priority for communicating.
I also utilize sending notes and cards. People don’t send notes and cards anymore. Here you have an opportunity to touch someone in a unique way and it doesn’t require the energy level of a face-to-face conversation. Also, you can do it when you are thinking about the person. It lets them know they were on your mind.
As an introvert church planter, prayer has been a great resource. All church planters should be pray-ers. But more specifically, it’s what I pray for. When I spend time praying for specific people, God prepares their hearts for deeper conversation and introverts thrive on deep conversation.
In addition, I pray for God to bring people to me. I continually ask God to put people in my path who have a desire to know more about Him. One time I had been praying specifically for God to put a person in my path that day. In the afternoon, I went to the chiropractor. It was a new doctor and he knew very little about me. But, after the adjustment, he sat down and started asking me questions about God and faith.
Be patient and persistent
Extroverted church planters do typically have quicker results in reaching others. They like to talk and the more they are around people, the more energy they have to spend with people. Dear introvert, you have gifts and grace too. You have something to offer your community. You have faith, persistence, and a listening ear. Be patient with yourself and patient with the call. God has a plan to reach this world and it includes introverted church planters.