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.