Saturday, July 9, 2011

Introvert Fantasy Camp

Today's post combines two of the most hazardous arenas for introverts: conferences/camps and youth ministry. Aubry Smith wrote a post the other day that I loved so much I asked her if I could re-post it. If you were designing an "introvert fantasy camp," what would it look like? Enjoy the post and weigh in at the bottom!

Last week, I went as a sponsor with my husband and our youth group to the Student Life camp in Orange Beach. David Platt was our speaker, so I was definitely as challenged and stretched as any teenager there, but nearly the entire time I thought to myself, “Wow. Extroverts plan and lead this whole operation.” Seriously, there isn’t a single aspect of camp that has introverts in mind. So, here is my fairy-tale proposal for church camp geared toward introverts.

1) Actual Quiet Time. Now, every church camp is going to say that they schedule time for you to read your Bible and pray. They just don’t tell you that you’re only going to get ten minutes before the craziness begins, unless you are disciplined and wake up before everyone else. The only problem is, you can’t actually get away from everyone else, so you’re exhausted and really need every minute of sleep that you can grab. And it takes us introverts at least ten minutes for our internal dialogues to slow down so that we can actually pray clearly or meditate on Scripture. In my fake Introvert Camp, you get one hour scheduled in the morning and evening for quiet time. Extroverted teenagers will be finished after ten minutes and will be dying to talk to anyone to break the silence.

2) Low-key worship. I love music, I really do. But I literally had to get those little orange earplugs to stuff in my ears at camp, because the volume was making me panic. Combine the raging music with the flashing concert lights, not to mention all the jumping around and “shake or hug your neighbor and say ‘ARE YOU READY TO WORSHIP???”’ and you have a room full of stressed-out introverts who are definitely not ready to worship. My solution? An acoustic set. Unplugged. Just get a guitar up there, maybe a djembe and one of those little shaker things, and we are good to go. Let’s have times of singing, then times of extended silent prayer, confession, and centering interspersed throughout. Oh, and no touching your neighbor and saying awkward things to them. It’s not allowed at introvert camp.

3) Processing time after the message. David Platt brought it this week. I took furious notes, but after he was finished speaking, we went right back to the crazy band, jumped around, and then went straight to church group time to discuss it. No surprise: the introverts in our group never spoke about what they’d heard. We are slow thinkers; it’s why we find conversations difficult. So for maximum impact after the sermon, allow five or ten minutes of silent worship and response. The low-key band should play quietly during this time as we introverts process the message we just heard. You might find us rather talky during the church group sessions at Introvert Camp.

4) Separate sleeping quarters. Now, this is a cost issue, but we’re at my fictitious youth camp, so bear with me. We love you, extroverts, but we need time away from you so that we can really be with you. We need our sleep. We can do the fun stay-up-all-night-talking-and-partying for one night, but the rest of the nights at camp, we need to recharge. Alone. So we’re going to have separate bunks in separate rooms. Even just a little cubicle would be sufficient. Youth pastors should enforce quiet hours – which need to last at least 8 hours (I myself need nine).

5) Group time. You thought I was going to try to spend the whole camp getting away from everyone, didn’t you? No, introverts do enjoy being with people, and we gain a lot from building relationships and having shared experiences with extroverts (I am married to an extrovert, and I happen to think he’s a lot of fun). We really do want to be part of the group, and it is actually very painful to be left out because of cliques. This was the biggest thing I struggled with when I worked at Kanakuk for two years; if you weren’t a wild and crazy extrovert, few people really wanted to know you since you didn’t have a super fun personality. But we go through cycles of needing to recharge alone and periods of being with people. So yes, we love group time and hearing what everyone else is learning. Bring on the group time and the games and the silliness.

6) No guilt for introversion. I didn’t attend, but I heard that at Super Summer Arkansas this year, the speaker (a coach) told youth pastors to focus their time and attention on gaining 10 “sharks” (extroverts who are wild, crazy, and love to talk to people) in the youth group, because these people are the ones who will really make an impact for the Kingdom of God. No, no, no!!! You can serve God in a way that is compatible with your personality. My husband and some of my closest friends have confirmed that the Spirit has gifted me for evangelism. I’m an introvert! And I struggled with ridiculous shyness for years! At my camp, you won’t be made to feel like you’re no good because you’re not an extrovert. Your introversion is not something you need to “grow out of.” No matter what our culture tells us, introverts can and do make faithful and devoted servants of Christ.

7) Excitement and volume don’t equal devotion. How loud you scream weird cheers about Jesus will never determine your spiritual development at Introvert Camp. So if they make you feel awkward – no worries. No one cheers “We love Jesus yes we do, we love Jesus how about you?” at my camp. Yes, you can be passionate about Jesus without having to yell about it.

Would you come to my introvert church camp?

Aubry Smith is passionate about missions, theology, and helping the Church to think critically through her blog. She is a wife and stay-at-home mom to her two boys.

What would your "introvert fantasy camp" include? What would it not include?