Exhausted nursery workers, smocks spattered with dried formula and spit-up; elderly children’s Sunday school teachers ready to retire but alas, there’s no replacement in sight; overextended pastor’s wives heading up the understaffed women’s ministry committee; frazzled kitchen workers, needing many more hands to prepare food for the flock—any of that sound familiar?
It should. Surely you’ve noticed that there never seem to be enough volunteers to fully staff the church on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights? Just look in the bulletin or take a gander at the fancy screen mounted up front—you’re likely to see announcements for several positions or areas of need. Better yet, keep your eye out for the disheveled children’s minister or wide-eyed nursery manager darting swiftly through the aisles drumming up last minute workers. It’s a scene replayed weekly in most churches in America.
In fact, the latest statistics show that around 20% of church members do the bulk of the work within the local church. The purpose of this post is not to answer the question of why this is the case but instead, to point churches to a quiet, covert, underutilized group of people who may actually help with this urgent and persistent situation.
Tell me more, you say? What am I missing? Well, you’re forgetting the most underutilized group in society at large—the introverts!
You’re missing them because: They will not show up for a volunteer tryout of the praise team—even though they may have a lovely voice. They will not hunt down the head of the nursery department to tell them they would love to serve. They would never knock on the pastor’s door to let him know they have extensive experience in business and would, therefore, be an asset to the finance or personnel committee.
Introverts are reluctant to put themselves out there. They often have the skills and confidence for the job at hand. They are not necessarily shy and can actually be comfortable in front of a crowd. They are often excellent leaders/speakers. A trait shared by many, if not most, introverts is humility. Therefore, seeking out a position—even though they know it’s in their wheelhouse—smacks of pride and self-promotion. That’s something that many introverts just can’t get past.
Another issue for introverts is that extroverts are everywhere at church— busily working, leading, serving, overextending. An introvert would never push them aside. In fact, the leadership of your church loves extroverts for their enthusiasm, visibility, and willingness to serve. ( We’ll get Susie to do it, she never says ‘no’) Remember the old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”? Well, your church leadership loves that saying. After all, it’s hard and time consuming to search out the introverts quietly watching from the bushes.
How do you recognize the introverts in your church? Introverts can definitely be very faithful attenders. They love the church and treasure their deep relationships with friends and fellow Life Group members. They are often the quieter ones at a church fellowship, perhaps in a deep conversation with one or two other people, or maybe they are sitting by themselves in the church cafe, quietly drinking a cup of coffee.
When it comes to plugging introverts in at your church, think: informal counseling, committee work, kitchen help, teaching, choir opportunities, helping with ministry projects, ushering. There are introverts in your church who would love to serve in these areas and many more. Remember, however, introverts will not want to be overextended due to the fact that having time alone for quiet reflection is so important to them.
Your congregation is filled with gifted believers with willing hearts. It may just take some extra effort to find them and ask them to help. Never assume that your introverted members don’t want to help/lead/volunteer/teach. Many of them are at home thinking about how they would love to teach or to be on a particular committee. They are just waiting to be asked face-to-face or reached out to in an email or text. When extroverts are the only ones recruited to fill all the volunteer positions in the church, introverted people are robbed of the blessing of serving, and others are robbed of the joy of serving alongside these calming, caring, talented people.
Here’s one caveat: Unfortunately, a common trait of introverts is that they often let calls go through to voicemail (!), preferring to prepare themselves mentally for the issue at hand instead of giving an off the cuff response. But, hopefully, church leadership will be persistent and patient with the introverted sheep in their diverse flock and begin to mine this hidden jewel of eager volunteers.