Saturday, November 12, 2011

Introvert Saturday: Sunday Mornings Are Draining, but They’re Worth It

About the author: Ryan Haack is a husband, father, writer and the Associate Pastor at The Journey Community in Madison, WI.  He has created more blogs than one person ever should, which you can read at RyanHaack.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter @RyanHaack.

Sunday mornings are exhausting for an introverted pastor. I know, because I am one. The expectation is that we’ll be outgoing, incredible conversationalists and energized by visitors. That isn’t naturally true for me. When visitors arrive, I tend to walk the other way. It’s not because I don’t like them, though. It’s because I’m nervous. And I’m terrible at small-talk. Even with friends. Even good friends. So, even when I “escape” to them it can stress me out. I start to worry that I’m offending the people I’m not talking to or that I’m dominating the one conversation I am having. Then I end up going to the bathroom or taking a walk just to settle down.It sounds totally crazy, right? That a pastor would have such issues with their “biggest morning of the week.”

Here’s the deal, though: For as nervous and uncomfortable as it makes me, I do it every week because it’s worth it. It’s absolutely worth it. It’s frustrating because I love people. I love Jesus and I want to share him with people who don’t know him. It bothers me to no end that my introversion gets in the way of that so often. Sunday mornings, then, have to become a time where I “become extroverted” for a little while. Taking five minutes to sit at a table of strangers and ask them about themselves is not going to kill me. Shaking the hand of a visitor and telling them I’m glad they’re here isn’t going to, either. It’s not always easy, but I can do it.

My friend George, on the other hand, is the epitome of all things that are good about extroversion. If you come to our church, you will not escape the kind and joyful arms of George. Literally. He will hug you. He will also ask you about yourself and will be genuinely interested in your response. He will also ask you how you are doing and really want to know. A couple years ago this caused friction between George and me. He was not willing to accept my “I’m fine” response; he wanted a real answer from me. “George! Seriously! I’m FINE. Just accept that! Sometimes people are just ‘fine,’” I said. Ok, I didn’t really just say it. At the time, I don’t think I understood how my introversion affected me, so instead of having a good conversation with George, I lashed out defensively. Thankfully, we worked through that and now serve on our elder team together. I’m not good at a lot of the things George, as an extrovert, excels at. I’m so thankful for him. He’s an excellent example for me.

I know I make it sound like I’m miserable on Sunday mornings. That’s not the case. There really is no place I’d rather be. I love the people in my community, and the leaders I get to work with are inspiring. Please hear that. And even though my introversion can make Sunday mornings exhausting, it can also make them incredibly powerful. As I walk around, I’m looking, and listening. I’m noticing who’s there and who’s missing. I’m watching people interact and hearing tidbits of conversations. I see smiles and frowns. It’s incredibly fulfilling to notice when someone seems “off” and to ask them how they’re doing and really look into their eyes, awaiting their response. And I love hugs. A hug says a lot of things an introvert might fumble through if they tried to actually say it.

One of my favorite things to do, though, on a Sunday morning is to just sit and be thankful. To look around at all the amazing people I get to call my friends and thank God for them. To be amazed by the kindness and love the people in my community show each other. And to be humbled by it all.

Ultimately, Sunday mornings are not about me anyway. They are about Jesus. All I can do is be there and do my best to serve Him and love others. And I’ll continue to do so, no matter what.

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If you want to read more about introversion, leadership, and those people who get tired on Sunday mornings, check out Adam's book Introverts in the Church.