Friday, July 12, 2013

How introverted leaders stay strong and finish well

It’s been my observation that we tend to underestimate the toll that ministry takes on pastors and pastors' wives who are introverts. Not everybody likes a big church party. Not everybody is energized by Sunday interactions with people.

God doesn't call just extroverts to ministry. He also calls introverts. I know. I am one.

It often comes as a surprise to people when they hear that I'm an introvert. After all, I am energized by preaching and teaching to small crowds and to big ones. And I know how to engage people in what I hope are engaging conversations. But I have to admit, if you give me the choice between going to a party and reading a book in the park, I will pick the book every time.

Recently, I’ve been thinking through how to help introverts in the ministry stay energized and finish well. Here are 4 principles you might need to apply.

1. Be OK with your introverted-ness.

It takes tons of extra energy for you to pretend that you are an extrovert when you are an introvert. If you are an introvert, say so. Proudly! God must love introverts because he made so many of them. And He's called many of them into the ministry. So, if you are one, go ahead and admit it, “I'm an introvert!”

2. Ignore the criticism that can come to you because of your introverted-ness. 

One of my friends in the ministry once said, “I'm about peopled out.” Two other friends looked at that first friend with horror and disgust. It made my introverted friend feel “less than.” It's possible, and even probable, to be peopled out if you're an introvert. Don't let others criticize the way God made you.

3. Schedule time away from people to recover from seasons of engagement. 

I'm not sure exactly why, but late in the spring is a time when I always feel like I have nothing left to give. I just have to get away. Maybe it's because of the heavy people engagement required by the ministry through fall, Christmas, and Easter. And I'm usually 2 to 3 weeks late in taking some time away. Don't let that happen to you. Build some time away in your schedule daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. If you're an introvert, you will just need more time away to refuel then the extrovert in ministry. You have to be more intentional about your schedule.

4. Re-engage with others passionately. 

One temptation for introverts after a busy season and some time away is to reengage without your heart. Ministry, though, is about connecting with people from your heart so you can help them connect with God from their hearts. You just can't hide. You’ve got to think of ways to engage. Ministry is about discipleship and discipleship is about spending time with people. So who are your inner circle, your 3? Who are your 12? Who are your 72? Who are your 500 and thousands? After some time away, how will you engage them with your whole heart? Listen, if you will be intentional about scheduling some time away, then you will be able to re-engage passionately because you know future refueling time away is already on your schedule.

Question: What advice would you give introverts about staying energized so that they finish well?

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