To begin with, it is true that some churches do work together. When this happens it is excellent. In this series, I want to address misunderstandings people commonly have about this. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it may sometimes not even be desirable. In this post, I’ll tell you why. Today we’ll take on the first reason that occurred to me.
Reason #1: Introversion among church leaders.
Can introverts be in church leadership?
Absolutely. The reality is that introverts are in church leadership—I’ve seen studies that estimate anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of Protestant pastors are introverted, with an even higher percentage among Catholic priests. Interestingly, it seems that the larger churches are, the higher is the percentage of introverts leading them. A recent survey reports that 45% of megachurches are led by introverted pastors. Erwin McManus, Dan Kimball, and Mark Driscoll, among many others, are self-confessed introverts.
Are introverts the “problem” when it comes to churches not working together? Most introverted pastors would say it’s not that they are the “problem,” it’s that they do not agree with how extroverted pastors frame the issue of working together. Extroverts often cannot wait to get together with new people and “network,” exchanging names, phone numbers, and ideas. Introverts tend to be uncomfortable in these situations and do not know how to be authentic. When they are authentic (which often means quiet and withdrawn) they are often seen by extroverts as arrogant or rude.
Extroverted pastors may talk often about partnering with other churches and ministries, and often can’t think of anything that excites them more than making these connections. They form relationships quickly and easily. They are relational microwaves. Introverted pastors are relational crock pots. They take a long time to warm up in relationships and begin to feel comfortable. Ever been to a weekend leadership conference? While the extroverts tend to jump right into the “vibe” of the weekend, many of the introverts will tell you that in the last hours of the conference, they are just beginning to warm up and feel comfortable and able to participate.
For introverted pastors and church leaders, it is simply not an option to get a bunch of new people in a room, introduce one another, talk about visions and plans, and “team up.” The best partnerships always come from relationships, and for those who do not form relationships quickly, this approach will not work. Moreoever, to introverts this type of thing can even sometimes seem a bit naive.
The best partnerships are built between people who know and trust one another and have a deep commitment not only to an agreed-upon cause, but to each other as human beings — even a mutual commitment to the well-being of the other’s respective church community. These connections are often forged slowly, over many cups of coffee, often arising out of friendship and a mutual passion to meet similar needs. They are difficult to manufacture just because someone thinks it should happen, and this is especially true for introverted pastors.
If we really believe extroversion is “good” and introversion is “bad,” then we need to simply get rid of huge numbers of introverted pastors and priests and replace them all with extroverts. We could do that, of course, but I believe the church would suffer deeply for it. Speaking quite generally, our introverted pastors are often our “thought leaders,” the ones coming up with new ideas, the ones who excel in making concrete plans and moving them forward, the ones who lead out of quietness, which is an ingredient sorely missing in today’s evangelical church. I don’t have research to confirm this, but I’m willing to bet that introverted pastors are disproportionately represented among those who write the books (both theological and practical) that are driving the church forward.
This isn’t to disparage extroverts in any way — we deeply need the gifts and approaches they bring to the table. It is only to say that if we agree that the church also needs what introverts have to offer, then we must realize that the question, “Hey, why don’t we team up,” is an extroverted question. Extroverts tend to say this because of their need to constantly be building new connections and relationships. Introverts often do not have this need, preferring to focus on deepening the ones they already have.When introverts decide to team up, many of the necessary relationships have already been built over many years.
Introverted pastors, of course, lead congregations dominated by extroverts.When these pastors don’t seem to jump on a congregant’s idea to team up with some other church, it is not necessarily because the pastor thinks it’s a bad idea. It is because hears more than, “Let’s do these things with this church.” He/she hears, rather, “this is a relationship you need to begin building right now.” While the first one is fairly quick and easy, the second — especially to an introverted pastor — is a major proposition in terms of time, effort, and energy. Congregants who wish to “team up” nearly always want to see something happen right away, but to whatever extent the plan requires the involvement of an introverted pastor, right away isn’t going to happen.