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.