This is part three in a series on getting excited about church community, and about living out of the conviction that we belong together, whilst being an introvert. You can find parts one and two here.
I’m attempting to apply the following principles at the moment! They all have an introverted flavour, but I think some of them could be applied more widely.
Do let me know if any of them resonate with you. Or if you have any other suggestions. I don’t necessarily have this 100% sussed!
(1) Never assume you couldn’t be friends with someone!
I know it’s scary, but it might surprise you just how well you get on with someone in a different generation, class, nationality, gender, or background! God loves diversity, and you’re made in God’s image! God has definitely been teaching me this one recently.
(2) Don’t judge a friendship’s potential on click factor.
As an introvert you know that there’s lots below the surface! Be patient, and get to know the other person, getting to know their unique story, one interaction at a time. If you intentionally spend time with someone regularly, you will be surprised how quickly your affection for them grows, and soon a friendship will be born.
(3) Be vulnerable.
As an introvert you may want to hold back from sharing yourself with other people. I often feel really embarrassed as I walk away from coffee with someone and I realise revealed more of myself than I intended, or they’ve seen a part of me that isn’t polished. But I’m trying to reframe those kinds of interactions as a success! Vulnerability leads to a real knowing, and real knowing more often than not leads to lasting friendships.
(4) Introduce people to one another.
Community is a network of people, not simply one-to-one friendships! And you will learn lots more about the people you introduce to each other as they get to know each other. It will also give your introverted self time to breathe whilst they are chatting.
(5) Be kind to yourself.
Where are the least chaotic and busy areas of church where you could have conversations? Do you really need to push your way through the crowds to get that coffee? Is pre-service or post-service the easiest environment for you? Maybe just do one or the other. Are you particularly exhausted today? Don’t push yourself, just do the church service and go home, guilt free. Be kind to yourself! That way you will have more energy to be generous with in the long term.
(6) Focus on spending time with people outside of the church building.
Introvert friendships flourish in one-to-one or small group settings. Do this as much as is healthy for you. You know your people energy levels! I’m currently making the most of the extra energy I have because work is quiet over the summer!
(7) Dare to make the first move.
You feel scared to make the first move and suggest that someone might want to go for coffee or come for lunch? Guess what!? They do too! So just make the first move it’s worth it.
(8) Don’t take a “no” personally.
Sometimes someone won’t say “yes” to your generous suggestion of lunch or coffee etc. Don’t take it personally! And be daring enough to invite them to something else another time. It may well pay off. I say this from experience!
(9) Find ways to spend time with a wider group of people regularly.
Consider joining a life group / home group / cell group / Bible study… or whatever your church calls your midweek smaller gatherings. Think about whether there is a small team you could serve in. Is there a small social gathering that meets semi-regularly, like a book group, a walking group, or a craft group? The regularity will help the growth of friendships, but as an introvert you will probably need to also spend time one-to-one, or one-to-two, with the members of the group, to feel like they are real friends.
Are there any other principles that you apply to building church community? I’d love to hear your thoughts!