Working With a Team, for the Christian Introvert

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Although no Christian should say, “I can’t stand people,” many of us are naturally introverted and can’t stand crowds. Or even “small” groups of ten people talking at once.

Yet if we’re to fully obey God’s commands to love our neighbors and join with our fellow believers, the day may come when we feel called to serve on a team of Christian workers.  How do we handle this without unnecessarily risking our patience and love against temptations to stress out?

Confirm Your Assignment in Advance

By “confirm it,” I mean confirm it privately with God first. Not every “I should do this” tug comes from God; the devil can use even Christian-work opportunities to lead believers into stressful situations that ruin them for their real calling. And sincere but extroverted Christians can get carried away in their zeal to pull in every possible volunteer, forgetting that not everyone shares their calling.

If you feel God may want you to join a large team, and especially if that thought follows on the heels of another believer’s emphasizing how much they need more workers, spend some serious time in prayer before adding your name to the list. Then if you still aren’t sure, get another Christian to pray with and for you. Don’t worry about taking too long and “missing the boat”; you’re in more danger of regretting your decision if you rush into it. If you’re sincerely seeking God’s leading, His perfect wisdom will become your perfect timing.

Know Your Teammates as Individuals

Although God frequently has us grow our effectiveness by stretching our comfort zones, chances are any team assignment He has for a naturally introverted follower will involve a fairly small team (or a subgroup of a large team). In a smaller group, you’ll have opportunities to talk to your partners one-on-one; take full advantage. Learn all you can about the others’ families, day jobs, leisure interests, life goals, and personal concerns. Ask if there’s anything you can pray for, or invite them to share coffee or a bird walk during mutual free time.

(A hint if you’re already acquainted with one or more team members: this is a good thing, perhaps even a criterion for accepting team assignments, insofar as it reduces your initial discomfort and tendencies to freeze up. However, it can also lead to focusing all your attention on existing friends, while ignoring God’s nudges to expand your view a bit. Get to know everyone in your immediate team circle.)

Know Exactly What You Want to Do

Not all introverts are super-organized types with “the more clearly defined my responsibilities, the better” leanings. However, virtually all types of introverts have strong need for perceptible boundaries. If you volunteer for any project that involves large groups working on a large variety of tasks, and it doesn’t come with a sign-up list of fairly well-defined duties, start by meeting with the project or team leader one-on-one. Explain that you’ll need more specific instructions than “find whatever needs doing and do it” if you’re to be effective in helping the project accomplish its goals. Be clear on what you’re best at and what atmosphere you work best in, and request an assignment that fits these areas. Don’t leave until you’re sure of what you’ll be doing and what you’ll need to handle it.

And don’t worry about being a bother by taking time to clarify your role; many more problems start when someone tries to “expedite” preparations by pretending to understand, then goes on to do all the wrong things or stay busy with irrelevant tasks. Remember 1 Corinthians 14:33 (NLT): “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”

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Christian Service for the Introvert

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(See also “Fellowship for the Christian Introvert.”)

The typical image of “Christian service” is of someone preaching to a crowd, teaching Sunday school, or serving meals in a food pantry. In other words, someone sharing the love of Christ with a good-sized group of people and radiating high energy throughout.

Which makes it tough on those of us who want to be faithful Christian servants, but freeze up talking to groups and find it draining to socialize for long.

The Bible says God created us all for good works He planned in advance (Ephesians 2:10), so every believer is made for Christian service. What we sometimes forget is that God creates each of us uniquely and doesn’t expect the exact same form of service from every  individual. To paraphrase Paul’s analogy on the human body and the body of Christ: if the whole congregation was made up of Sunday school teachers, who would clean the church restrooms? And if the whole congregation was made up of food-pantry workers, who would keep the church website up to date?

If you’re a Christian introvert who can’t see yourself dealing with groups of strangers and semi-strangers on any regular basis, be assured God isn’t disappointed in you. In fact, He created you with just the temperament you have so you could serve the Body and the world in your own ideal ways.

Here are some areas of Christian service that typically suit introverts. Consider which ones appeal to your natural passions: then ask God, your church staff, and discerning Christian friends to recommend appropriate needs you can fill.

Writing

  • Could your church’s website use a weekly blog? Or help with a blog/newsletter/website/emailing that’s being irregularly produced and poorly written? Or even a full-length book for fundraising sales?
  • Are there shut-ins, or people on the church’s prayer list, who’d appreciate regular (perhaps handwritten) notes of encouragement?
  • Can you send spontaneous notes to your pastor/church staff? Often it’s the people with the full-time work of serving fellow believers, who get taken for granted and their struggles ignored.
  • Does your church or denomination have a “pen pal” program where you can regularly write to missionaries, or other Christian workers, or ordinary Christians living in largely unchurched regions?

Art

Could you contribute:

  • paintings or a mural to decorate your church’s welcome center;
  • graphic design or calligraphy to church publications;
  • craft projects to sell at a church fair or fundraiser?

Helps

Many introverts find special joy in the sort of background service unfairly labeled “dirty work”:

  • Cleaning up after the crowds have left
  • Delivering meals to shut-ins, or just dropping in to visit (often, the introvert who “hates crowds” can talk for hours with a couple of friends–or with one lonely individual)
  • Landscaping or gardening
  • Construction or repair work

Prayer

Of course every believer should pray for the Church and for others’ needs; but some Christians are specially gifted for the sort of lengthy private prayers that move mountains. Famous pioneer missionary William Carey credited much of his success to the fervent prayer support of his home-bound sister in England.

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And after you’ve found your place of service, consider praying that God will send you a few fellow introverts to team with. If they were feeling discouraged about not being suited for large-group-style Christian service, you can render additional service by encouraging them through example!

 

 

  • A blog for naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

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    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at www.PositiveContentFactory.com.

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    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See http://www.biblegateway.com/ for copyright details.
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