There are moments in ministry when the light bulb goes on. You just realize something that perhaps should have been obvious to you, but apparently was not.
I had one of those moments earlier this month. I’m still sorting out the implications.
Churches have personalities. Before beginning my ministry here in the desert, I applied for positions at a few churches that used the personality matrix developed by Philip Douglass in his book What is Your Church’s Personality? Discovering and Developing the Ministry Style of Your Church. I had to take a test. Obviously I “failed” (just kidding, I just wasn’t the right fit for them).
This is an important issue. A wrong fit, personality-wise, can destroy a church. I’ve seen it. I’ve picked up the pieces. If you ignore this matter you will have a pastor trying to force people to be something they are not instead of helping them to faithfully fulfill God’s commands in a way that fits who they are.
The light bulb went on with a congregant about the previous pastor. I realized that this congregation is introverted. That fact will greatly affect how effective ministry is done in the congregation and by the congregation.
This does not mean that everyone is an introvert. It means the critical mass of the congregation is introverted. This means that outreach, or mission, is harder for them. Not impossible. Obviously introverts leave their homes, go to work, talk to other people etc. The point is that this tires them out, and they regain strength by alone time.
I’m still thinking this through. But as an introverted congregation considers outreach, they must recognize that their personality, including this aspect, matters.
The congregation will be strongest in its public worship. That is “home” for them. That is them being “alone” for them. At times, for ministry, they will venture out. Outreach is periodic.
In an extroverted congregation they love to be “out there” and sustain regular ministry outside their doors. They see the role of the local church as being equipped and given orders. They are all about doing, and not concerned with being.
The introverted church the emphasis is on being (and maturing). They can do, and should do, but it tires them out.
The pastor and missions team of such a church will consistently need to poke and prod. There needs to be encouragement and a calling to engage in outreach. But there are also more realistic expectations. The bar is not set unrealistically high. They are not expecting them to act like flaming extroverts. But they don’t allow them to hide in their introversion either.
The pastor and missions team will also plan outreach events instead of outreach programs. Unless there is a small group of extroverts who want to run a program. Outreach will not be a never-ending program that sucks the life out of the members. It will be a project: go and get it done.
Both types of ministry are needed in the Church. Not every church needs both. We can welcome the difference. But often I see “extroverts” disparaging introverted churches for not doing “enough” which seems to usually mean sustained programing and social activism. When we do this we are not necessarily holding a church to God’s standard, but our own.
So, the pastor needs to understand their congregation (that takes time) and begin to help them find ways to fulfill the Great Commission in ways that while uncomfortable at times do not destroy them by ignoring and denying their personality.