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I’m Not an Extrovert, but I Play One on TV.

Tony Myles —  September 23, 2013 — 11 Comments

It felt like I grabbed a can of Mountain Dew the moment I became a youth pastor. At first glance, it seemed like a prerequisite for ministry was a charismatic personality. Even the clarity of the Bible created some confusion, for the Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” introvert-extrovert

That’s the truth that caused me to lean into a lie. I wanted to see the people I cared about in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and assumed the only way I could do it was to become the life of the party.

I wonder how many of our students feel the same way.

Think about it: Is there a vibe that kids have to constantly bring their friends to youth group? What if they only have one really good friend who isn’t interested? How about if they don’t want to stand up and play your “stupid game”?

Time for a gut check. Does your ministry have as many on-ramps for introverts as it does for extroverts? Here are some ideas:

  • Before programs: Offer comfortable seating where quieter kids can come early, relax, or play video games. Provide set-up tasks they can help with (and give them a cool team name, like “Roadies” or “Techies”).
  • During programs: Help introverts take risks by not embarrassing them. Ask them ahead of time if they’d be willing to read Scripture, help with an object lesson, or do something significant behind the counter. Advance planning creates the runway for introverts to soar from.
  • After programs: Some introverts like to slip out fast when your program concludes. Assign at least one leader who will learn that student’s story and catch them with a simple question on a weekly basis, such as “How can I pray for you this week?”
  • On trips: Introverts may feel uncomfortable sharing a huge tent or being packed into a van with their peers. Let them bunk with their best buddy, and be sure to build in rest stops at malls, restaurants, or open areas where they can feel alone (yet always be within sight of the leaders).

Keep in mind that introverts may not fit the stereotype (and they may not want to). As I said, I became an extrovert for what I sensed were noble reasons. Even though I didn’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism I wanted to become more conversational and social in order to “do the work of an evangelist.”

How is this fleshing out in your church and youth group?

  • Do you see quieter kids “trying on” different personalities?
  • Has your personality (or someone else’s) become the “right” one to have?
  • Is there any kind of expectation that people have to become someone they’re not in order to communicate who Jesus is?

Introverts

What other things should we think about when it comes to serving students who may fall more into this category? For example, is it possible to swing too far toward introverts? I’ve seen a fair share of “postmodern” environments where all the contemplative prayers and incense make the extroverts run out the door to play dodgeball. I’ve even wanted to join them.

Share your thoughts, and thank you for loving students!

- Tony

Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

11 responses to I’m Not an Extrovert, but I Play One on TV.

  1. Good word, Tony. Another great resource for further thought is QUIET by Susan Cain. It has been on the NY TIMES Bestseller for awhile. I read it and have found myself referring to it in a lot of my conversations.

  2. Great insight for me to learn. I’m an extrovert through and through and I don’t realize that anyone wouldn’t want to be the life of the party. I don’t want to make the introverts in youth group feel less than because they’re different. I’ll use your advice this week and apply it to myself. Thank you!

    • Tony Myles

      Thanks, Bryce! The funny thing is I applied this advice tonight as well… really saw a difference in the participation of everyone when they had the chance to do it in their style. Keep making a difference!

  3. I am a Youth and Young Adult Pastor who is an Introvert. My issue is i sometimes feel like because im not as loud or life of the partyish like leaders of the past i dont measure up. The task i have now is rebuilding the ministry ages 0-30. I know that with God leading me i can do it but i cant help but feel like the odd one out. Im an introvert leader in an extrovert world…

    • Tony Myles

      I wonder if God has you in that position to make sure others like you get a fair shake. Young adult ministry really does rely more on introspection than Red Bull events – not that the age group doesn’t enjoy fun, but it does need someone who has the ability to create structure on paper versus nudge it along as the primary life of the party. Those people will emerge, but I sense what they need most is you to do your thing… you give the planes the runways they need to soar. Praying for you as you build!

  4. I am somewhere in the middle of extrovert and introvert. I think in student ministries situations I tend to be more of an extrovert but in my personal life I am more of an introvert.

    During youth nights I plan an active game and inactive game. Generally we do games like sardines or gaga ball but for the students who aren’t into that we have board games ready. They can play those or just sit back and chill. One of our leaders is not into the active games, so while I am in the gym or running around the church, she sits back and hangs out with the students who do not like the active games.

    When I was in youth I HATED group games, I thought I was “too cool” for them.

    • Tony Myles

      That’s awesome. I think we all have something we’re too cool for. :)

      Maybe you (like I mentioned I have) have found a way to straddle both worlds. In a heartbeat, I’d love to see others taking the lead… it feels like fruit. Meanwhile, I’ll get the party started as needed. :)

  5. Didn’t do it specifically with introverts in mind, but after I teach I put a few questions on the board and give the students 5 minutes to journal and process what was taught, and then discuss it in small groups later that week.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Working with introvert young people - PYM - Presbyterian Youth Ministry - September 24, 2013

    [...] Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio… and he really likes smoothies. Taken from http://www.morethandodgeball.com/serve/im-not-an-extrovert-but-i-play-one-on-tv/ [...]

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