By Eddie Pipkin
Church ministry is dominated by extroverts. Glad-handers, dramatic speakers, hip youth leaders, charismatic worship directors, and electrifying teachers who hold rooms spellbound are all superstars in their respective local congregations. In an evangelical age in which popularity is equivalent to success, individuals who are comfortable with crowds are celebrated for their leadership. Extroverts are awesome and essential. But ignoring the strengths of introverts can lead to weaker and less well-rounded ministry. And new psychological research highlights the unique gifts of AMBIVERTS.
A refresher (and a link to a great graphic that illustrates the way that introverted and extroverted brains function differently) . . .
- Recharge by spending time alone.
- Reflect before making decisions.
- Listen more.
- Enjoy one on one conversations.
- Are introspective, self-aware, and think before acting.
- Learn through observation.
- Are more sociable with people they already know (and more guarded with people they don’t).
- Recharge by socializing.
- Make decisions quickly.
- Speak more.
- Are outgoing, easily distracted, and action-oriented.
- Are gregarious and expressive.
- Are confident public communicators.
- Enjoy being the center of attention.
Much ministry – worship in particular – tends to lean towards extroverts. This is because it’s extroverts who largely lead and design ministry, and it’s also a product of the public nature of worship – it’s visible and social by nature. It’s worth thinking about the ways in which worship could be more welcoming to the needs of introverts.
But in this blog we’re talking about leadership, so let’s not forget the value that introverts bring to the team:
- Processing a problem mentally before speaking. Introverts tend to think before blurting out a response or an idea. That’s a good thing.
- A better natural ability to handle the inevitable loneliness of a leadership role.
- A more focused, more intentional structure to relational time with other team members and ministry partners. Introverts often use one-on-one time more strategically.
- A better appreciation of the “big picture.”
- Better listening skills.
[And here’s a bonus link to an article from Craig Greenfield of the Alongsiders ministry on answering the unique challenges of ministering TO hardcore introverts!]
You’ve probably read articles that stress the importance of having both introverts and extroverts in leadership positions (and creating space in which both personality types are empowered to do what they do best), but have you read about AMBIVERTS?
“Ambivert” is the term used to describe people who have pronounced characteristics of both introversion and extroversion embedded in their personalities, and they have a unique and valuable skill set which lends itself particularly well to ministry. The idea of the ambivert is fueled by understanding that introversion and extroversion are not simply two polar choices. Introversion-extroversion is better thought of as opposite ends of a spectrum, with each of us positioned somewhere along that spectrum.
In an article at the Science of People website, Daniel Pink is quoted in a summation of what makes ambiverts great for leadership roles:
Ambiverts “know when to speak up and when to shut up, when to inspect and when to respond, when to push and when to hold back.”
Here’s a quick test for thinking about yourself on the spectrum:
Which explanation sounds more like you?
- I am drawn to people, I get energy from social gatherings and am pretty outgoing. (Extrovert)
- It’s draining to be around lots of people. I prefer peace, solitude, and quiet time. I usually crave alone time in my free time. (Introvert)
- It depends. (Ambivert)
I am, for instance, totally an “it depends” person. Sometimes I feel very drawn to people and sometimes very drained by them. I loved my role in Sunday morning worship leadership, but my family knew that when I came home on Sunday afternoons, I would inevitably be exhausted and seek to withdraw. It can feel very awkward in the moment, but understanding your ambiversion can be the starting place to valuing your unique wiring.
Here are some ambivert advantages (documented in the linked Science of People article):
- Ambiverts tend to be flexible and adaptable.
- Ambiverts tend to be more stable (avoiding the flamboyance of extroverts and the withdrawals of introverts).
- Ambiverts tend to be intuitive in adjusting to the needs of the situation in which they find themselves.
Author Vanessa Van Edwards offers this reminder about understanding your wiring and building on your strengths:
Remember: There is no right or wrong personality type. The only right thing to do is to live, act and address who you really are. Act on your strengths, purge toxicity and get to know your true self.
So, what about you and your team? Introverts? Extroverts? Ambiverts? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you talked about it together, and how you can work with one another in recognition of your strengths and needs? Summer seems like a good time to start.