Neil is an introvert. It isn’t that he doesn’t like people. In fact, Neil really likes being with people. However, in order to recharge, he needs time by himself. Lots of time.
His job is excellent for his personality, demanding a high level of competence, but allowing a lot of individual work time. For recreation, Neil plays sports. He is always a key player on his company team, and runs regularly.
If you were to get to know Neil, you would discover that he receives information visually, and his primary love language is words of affirmation. Basically, this means that he engages with what he sees, and he feels appreciated when people notice him and give him positive feedback. (Please note that these characteristics are specific to Neil, not all introverts. You will find introverts with every learning style and every love language.)
Every Sunday, Neil sits in the pews of your church. He might appear stoic and unengaged, because he doesn’t talk much. Instead, he will find a person or two who are nice to him and sit near them every week. Without those familiar faces, the three minutes everyone is forced to greet one another can be the most stressful of his whole week.
Neil’s visual learning style means that he will get more from your slides, your body language, videos and skits than he will from your words. In fact, the men’s retreat last year had a video clip as an advertisement, and it really caught his attention. He signed up to go, but then bailed when his week got too stressful and the thought of forced male bonding with strangers pushed him into full retreat.
Since people tend to naturally show love in their own love language, Neil tends to praise God with words more than actions. He might not “engage” in worship physically, but he is quietly contemplative and engaged even more so than some who are jumping up and down.
Here is the thing –
Does your church provide for someone like Neil to actually make friends? Do you honor those that fit the extrovert mold, and forget those who are quiet, assuming they are unengaged? Do you provide for the emotional rhythm of the introvert, or are the ‘truly spiritual’ people in your congregation on a treadmill of activity?
How can you engage Neil?
Consider offering a bible study where everyone can bring their laptops. Take time to help Neil connect with one or two people who share his interests. Neil might be a great person to join your sports team and make sure the gym is locked down after practices. If you ask him to be in charge of the team prayer time, he is likely to take it very seriously, and really consider the spiritual condition of each player throughout the week – having long talks with God about those you’ve given him to lead.
Start with a cup of coffee near his work. Get to know Neil in his own environment, and you will soon see him as God sees him. Just because he is quiet does not mean he is disengaged. Just because he isn’t at every gathering doesn’t mean he isn’t fully committed to God and your congregation. Neil wants to be included and useful. Can you help him connect?
Would you like more information? This article is a great starting place with lots of valuable information and links.
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