Monday, September 17, 2007

Book update

I heard from my publisher last week, who had some positive news. They met as a committee and they like the book idea. Now what needs to happen is obtaining some numbers and reports on marketability, financial viability, and target audience, to see if it will work. I'll hear back in 3-4 weeks.

For those of you who are new to Introverted Church, I sent in a book proposal to a Christian publishing house back in June. Go here for the chapter outline of my idea. I always love feedback.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Partnering with extroverts

I've had the opportunity to work with many extroverts in the last five years of full time ministry, with varying degrees of success. When I worked in a church, I had a very specific job description, which was very helpful. People didn't expect me to be the guy who worked 60 hours a week, caring for the entire congregation or leading the charge in evangelism. My least favorite environment, personality-wise, was the parachurch ministry I took part in, in which the leadership mold was decidedly extroverted and I was expected to be the lead socializer and the lead evangelist. It didn't help that my immediate supervisor was the most extroverted person I have ever met. As much as we tried to work out a job description for me that would play to my strengths, I still felt like I was constantly having to act like an extrovert. If I had stayed in that ministry and taken on a more supervisory role, I think I could have been happier, but the guy-on-the-front-lines role was not right for me.

In my current position, I think I am developing a good partnership with the social worker on my team, who is definitely an extrovert. She has a great deal of energy and has much more output than I do on a weekly basis, but we have a mutual respect for what each other brings to the table. I'm the guy that can sit with a patient for two hours and listen to their life stories and help them discover a deeper sense of God and their own spirituality. She's more of the problem solver, who can refer them to any resources that they need. She is the person on the front lines who is great at introducing me to people who need chaplain visits.

In other partnerships with extroverts, I have felt this external pressure to be more like them and to do more and produce more. This is the first "secular" job I have ever had. I wonder how much of my struggles in other arenas is related to evangelical theology and practice. My spiritual director said that "in the evangelical world, it seems that after you become a Christian, a giant neon billboard appears outside your window." There is this urgency to evangelicalism, which becomes all the more unappealing the older I get.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Introverted Expectations

A while back, I discussed a Barna survey studying the level of job satisfaction in pastors. One of the findings of this study is that introverted pastors tend towards feeling unhappy and under-appreciated in their jobs. Here is an excerpt from my latest book proposal about this survey:

In a recent Barna survey which studied pastors and their level of happiness, 24% of the pastors identified themselves as introverts, matching the numbers of the general population. However, introverted pastors were far more likely to report that they felt under-appreciated and isolated. Several therapists I know who frequently work with pastors said that many of their introverted clients struggle to find balance in their lives and often wrestle with depression. They feel unable to meet the social demands placed on them by their congregations, and they frequently lack adequate boundaries to enable them to find rest and to recharge their introverted batteries.

As a pastor I am encouraged that the percentage of introverted pastors reflects the percentage of introverts in the population, but I am troubled to learn that many introverted pastors feel discouraged. I have found that many churches expect the pastor not only to be a competent preacher and administrator, but also what I call the “Lead Socializer” in the congregation. One friend who was part of a pastor nominating committee told me about a conversation that a denominational executive once had with the committee. The executive said “If the pastor’s personality does not start with an ‘E’ then you need to keep looking.” As dismaying as that conversation is, it is all too common. Too many churches expect their pastor to be the first one on the church patio after the service and the last one to leave, meeting newcomers and renewing acquaintances with church members. All the interviews I have conducted with introverted pastors have yielded one commonality: the coffee hour after worship is their least favorite hour of the week. They love their people, but after expending a tremendous amount of emotional energy to preach, they would prefer to disappear into their offices than mingle.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Introverted Links

Here are a few links that I have found particularly helpful in getting a grasp on introversion:

First, an introductory article from the Atlantic, which I appreciate mostly because it comes from such a reputable publication.

Then, a forum entitled Introverts in Ministry, which comes from the website of Marty Laney, the author of The Introvert Advantage.

Last, here's an article about introverted evangelism.

Tell me what you think, and share other links if you've got them!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Introverted Boundaries

It’s a crisp autumn day in Southern California (it’s actually 108 and humid and it feels like death – I blame Al Gore for this), and it’s time for a new season of blogging on Introverted Church. I have yet to hear anything positive or negative from my potential publisher about my book proposal, and so I didn’t do much writing over the summer. But I have a pronounced “hermeneutic of introversion,” and I find myself regularly interpreting experiences in light of my personality tendencies.

When I describe my current ministry to people, some of them envision me sitting on a porch swing, sipping lemonade, and chatting with pleasant and hospitable old people, who are reflecting gratefully on their younger days and weaving yarns about collecting rubber during the war. In truth, what I face about 80% of the time are people with anxiety, depression, anger, regret, and fear, feelings which are only compounded by parallel emotions in their family members who are watching them die.

For most people, to talk regularly with people undergoing these kind of intense emotions would be incredibly draining and even emotionally dehabilitating. Yet what I have found over the last few months is that I have a strong ability to keep appropriate distance from people while still entering far enough into their emotional worlds to help them feel that they are not alone. And while the job certainly gets to me and the stress levels that I feel manifest in certain ways, I find that I am able to keep a proper separation between my professional and personal lives. I am not certain how much of this ability owes to my introversion and how much of this is related to other personality features or gifts (or pathologies!).

In my conversations with other introverts and in my research, I have discovered that many introverts have gifts of compassion. My hypothesis is that the farther you probe into the depths of your own psyche, the more you are able to enter into the worlds of others. Because of this, there are a high number of introverts in the psychiatric profession. But I also wonder whether because, according to Carl Jung, introverts “find primary meaning within the self,” that we are better equipped to keep appropriate distance between ourselves and the emotional worlds of others who are suffering? If extroverts find energy and meaning outside of the self, does that make it harder for extroverts to separate their own internal worlds from the worlds of others?