Monday, November 18, 2013

Introversion, ministry, and self-care.

I'm an introvert.

I don't know why this simple fact is so hard for people to understand.  I'm shy around new people, especially when I have a crush.  There are times when I'm happy to be in a small group and times when it terrifies me - it depends on a wide variety of factors.  My job requires that I be bold and up front and outgoing and I do that to the best of my ability.  I'm terrified of speaking in front of crowds, and I'm exhausted after preaching.

This is the nature of being an introvert in ministry.

Extroverts draw their energy from the crowd.  It recharges them to be around people.  Introverts give their energy away to the crowd.  We have to go away by ourselves to recharge.

Introverts in ministry chose to give of ourselves all day.  I'm in ministry because it's a calling.  I've explained to God hundreds of times all of the reasons why I'm not very good at it and why I'm not qualified to be in ministry, but I haven't changed God's mind on the matter yet.  I keep getting called to be in ministry - in uncomfortable and painful places, with people with whom I disagree, in situations that scare me, in languages that I'll never fully understand, with people whose problems are far greater than my own, and in ways that I never expect - the call to ministry continues.

As an introvert, each interaction takes a small bit of me and makes it no longer me.  You give one spoonful away at a time, and hope that the bottle doesn't run out before new supplies arrive.  You make it through the sermon and you collapse and try to recover.

I love people.  I love old people and teenagers and children and conservatives and liberals and Ukrainian students.  I love people, and I love being in ministry with people.  I love leading worship and I love preaching and I would never trade the late night conversations and the impromptu marriage counseling sessions for anything.  I love being in ministry.

And ministry is messy.  And John Wesley charged us to keep the world as our parish and my ministry has never fit inside of church walls.  And a person in ministry's work is never done.  It's never finished.  There is always something more that can be done, that should be done, that needs to get done.

But that is why Jesus is the Savior and we are the saved.

As an introvert in ministry, I have to step aside and make time and space for me to recharge.  I need to talk with a close friend about non-ministry things and sort through all the thoughts in my head and my heart.

And this is ok.

This is the hardest part about self-care: you have to give yourself permission to take care of yourself.  For me, I have to shut down and walk away from the crowd and be alone or spend time with someone who understands my boundaries.  I have to not answer questions about English and not speak Ukrainian sometimes.

Self-care is vital in ministry because without it you don't stay in ministry very long.  There is no way to keep everyone happy - and as long as that is your goal you will not be in ministry very long.  Self-care is about realizing that Jesus calls real people into ministry.  We aren't machines and a call to ministry doesn't make us machines.  We are people with feelings and emotions and triggers and baggage - and that is ok.  As a person in ministry, you need to take care of other people - and yourself.

The world is your parish, but you are your parish, too.

While you certainly should have a good network of great clergy friends and mentors, you need to give yourself to permission to take your own advice and find some rest.

When I have less to give, I need to recharge more often.

I'm not making any excuses and I'm not making any apologies - I'm just stating some facts to help people understand.  Ministry is a wonderful journey.  Introverts make tremendous pastors and missionaries.  Some of the best ministry people I know are deeply introverted.  We need to make space for all people and all giftings in ministry.  As long as God calls all types of people, we need to find room for all types of people.

Introverts included.  

No comments:

Post a Comment