An Introvert’s Guide to Building Community
Being someone who leans more towards the introverted end of the personality spectrum, I am especially grateful to God that He allowed me to marry an extrovert. Otherwise, as a friend once jokingly pointed out, my son might never see the light of day!
My husband is the type of person who will eagerly wait in a long line of people just to meet or greet the person of interest at the other end. I, on the other hand, would likely be tempted to consider that same wait as my opportunity to escape from awkward small talk socially unscathed. That I could be enticed by such a temptation is a classic marker that I am a true introvert.
While there are various nuanced descriptions of an introvert, it generally refers to someone who (for whatever reason: insecurity, anxiousness, preference, laziness, etc.) tends to finds solitude to be a more comfortable context than to be in with the company of many. This personality type is not to be stigmatized, as there are plenty of beneficial traits that accompany it (if I may say so myself…), but it is true that these individuals usually do not find it most comfortable or natural to initiate or deeply cultivate relationships.
While this reality may not be a significant issue for a non-Christian, for the Christian introvert, this can be a challenge, as the pages of Scripture are filled with God’s teachings on the importance of Christian community, which should be comprised of peers to sharpen and be sharpened by, mentors to learn from, and disciples to teach.
Here you have the six tips (because a list of five would be too predictable) that comprise my “guide” to building community as an introvert. They are ones that I genuinely utilize, typically on a daily basis, as I continue to grow in glorifying God through my relationships. While I do not intend for this guide to be an exhaustive one, I do sincerely hope these introspective pointers will be a blessing to have in mind as you grow in glorifying God, too.
- Pray. This is the most important of my tips. God tells us to pray about all things. Whether you get intimidated at the thought of attending a crowded church event — or maybe it’s one-on-one conversations that make you nervous — don’t underestimate the power of prayer in these situations! Ask God for peace, boldness, humility, whatever you need and He will be faithful to answer. We all (yes, even extroverts) have “thorns in our flesh,” so to speak, and this just happens to be one of ours. What a blessing too it is to have a perpetual opportunity in our lives for us to see that God’s grace is sufficient for us and that His power is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
- Don’t break social commitments based on your feelings (e.g., being overwhelmed or feeling insecure). Have you been here? You agree to attend or host a social gathering while in an especially confident mood, but then experience regret once the event is approaching that is so tangible in your gut, that you begin to desperately grapple for any viable excuse to bail or cancel. Let me encourage you not to be swayed by your emotions in this moment. The emotions of our hearts can be so fickle, even ranging from elated to “hangry” within an hour (or less, who am I kiddin’?)! Instead, reinforce your confidence in your commitments by focusing on God’s Truth, remembering that He is pleased by our vulnerable efforts to build a godly community around us.
- Remember, you’ll likely be so encouraged once the event is over. This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. It is helpful to keep this in mind when tempted to go into hiding, rather than to follow through with a social commitment. I will be the first to empathize with the uncomfortable growing pains you get when you step outside of you comfort zone in order to get to know someone better, and vice versa. But let me tell you, I will also be the first to exclaim that I have never regretted taking these steps after the fact, especially once my friend and I have expressed our mutual desire to connect again, or as I simply reflect on the conversations had. Plenty of times, however, I have regretted avoiding these potentially meaningful social interactions.
- Connect with your community routinely. Sometimes “life happens” and sickness or legitimate busyness can inhibit us from regularly gathering with fellow believers for the purpose of sharpening and encouraging one another. While this is understandable, it is not without its consequences, perhaps especially for the introvert. For example, I have noticed that I lose my “groove” (A.K.A. confidence in God to sustain me socially) when I neglect to connect routinely with my community of believers. On the other hand, when I habitually attend my weekly Bible study and invite people into my home to share a meal with my family, I find that I become less resistant and timid towards these types interactions overall. Let us become more strict on which excuses we allow to prevent us from growing in this way! God has this to say about routinely connecting with our community of peers and mentors: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (Heb. 10:24-25).
- Relinquish the illegitimate pressure to become “Most Popular.” The wisdom found in God’s Word is just stunning! Proverbs 18:24 tells us that “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” I believe that the principle of this verse teaches that there is great value in relationships with depth, not necessarily in a breadth of relationships. Introverts, rejoice!
- Don’t forget: They need you, too. Just as you need a godly community made up of peers and mentors to contribute to your spiritual well-being, these various individuals need you to contribute to theirs. While the important skills that generally accompany the extrovert (such as making acquaintances and having vulnerable conversations) may not come very naturally for the introvert, I have noticed that keen listening and an ability to hone in on others’ needs are among those that typically do come more naturally (of course this is not always the case). Imagine these natural traits made even more impactful by being harnessed by the Spirit of God and used with His blessing to encourage, confront, and otherwise serve the Body of Christ.
Fellow introvert, I truly hope that you have been encouraged and motivated by this silly, sincere “guide.” And I hope that you are eager to put into practice these tips as you invite your co-congregant neighbor to go on a walk or chat over coffee with a godly woman you admire. Perhaps these tips will help sustain you as you consistently attend a Bible study at your local church, or disciple a younger couple with your husband by regularly opening up your home to them. Wherever your starting or continuing point is for building your community, may God bless your efforts as you surrender your God-given personality to Him. ”