7 Tips for Introverted Pastors

I have made no secret of my introversion. In fact, being open and honest about it has been a great relief to me. I think a number of people understand me better.

One gift I wish I had been given when I served as a pastor in four different churches was a mentor who would share with me how to function as an introverted pastor. I made a ton of mistakes! I hope my experiences, both bad and good, will prove to be meaningful to pastors today. I have written them in the form of seven tips.

1. You just have to mingle sometimes. I really don't like small talk. When you mingle before or after a worship service or some other church event, you hear a lot of small talk. My temptation was always to avoid mingling so I could avoid such conversations. Unfortunately, pastors are perceived to be unfriendly and uncaring if they don't mingle. Force yourself to get out among the members frequently for short periods of time.

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2. You just have to counsel people sometimes. I avoided counseling for more than one reason. First, I never felt like I was equipped or trained to counsel. Second, I am task oriented with the temptation to advise someone on three easy steps to get their lives in orders. Third, my introversion pushes me away from conversations with people I don't know well. But pastors can't avoid all counseling. My counseling load tended to diminish over time because people left our sessions feeling worse than when they arrived.

3. You just have to attend a few social events. I'm probably wearing out the introverted pastor with these first three tips. But pastors who avoid all mingling, all counseling, and all social events tend to be viewed as impersonal and uncaring. While an introvert should never plan too much interaction, that pastor must be involved to some level.

4. Be transparent about your introversion. Church members will understand you better. Many will be more forgiving about some of the introvert's more annoying traits. Some will identify with you and be glad you were willing to address your introversion publicly.

5. Use the power of social media to be your voice. Introverts don't like small talk conversation, but they typically don't mind writing. The more people can "see" you on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or a blog, the more they will feel like they know you, even though you don't have one-on-one interaction with them.

6. Be accountable to an extrovert. I still am today, even though I no longer serve as a pastor. He reminds me of when I am sinking into extreme introversion. He sees me when I don't see myself. He tells me how my actions or lack of actions may be perceived.

7. Book time on your calendar to recover. If you have been expending lots of energy mingling, counseling, or socializing, you need some down time to recover. Put it on your calendar so you can be intentional about it. And for an hour or so, go to a place by yourself. Read, relax, or do nothing. No one is there to talk to you for those minutes. Enjoy your blessed aloneness for a brief season.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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