The Perils of Church Hunting for an Introvert

After 8 years of attending a church, our family finds itself looking for a new church home. The reasons are various. I’ll detail them more as I continue to write. Nothing terrible happened at our old church. If anyone was looking for a good Baptist church, I’d be inclined to recommend it.

But in the 6 weeks since we started visiting other churches, I’ve discovered that church hunting can be perilous for an introvert like myself.

First church we tried was one a friend attended. So, I could cling to her and she could do the causal introductions. It could have been a good fit, but for reasons that are private right now, it wasn’t. Sucks. Introverts like knowing at least someone in a crowded room.

As an introvert, even walking into a church picking a seat is stressful. I tend to overthink everything, but walking into a room as an outsider is rough. Fortunately, my husband knows my panicked look of “you go first” and he’ll head toward where to sit.

The greeting time. Whether it is the evangelical shake of hands or the Anglican tradition of wishing the Peace of God, I immediately feel my anxiety level jump ten levels. Strangers are going to talk to me and possibly shake my hand. The whole “how long can I wait to hand sanitize without being rude” internal discussion runs through my head. Hard to believe a friendly handshake or wish of Peace could stress me out so much, but it does.

And then every Anglican/Episcopal church we’ve attended (and it’s 4 so far) has a coffee, snacky time before or between or after services (and one actually meets in a coffee shop, so it’s always coffee time). Awkward small talk time. It’s really cool in practice. Break bread during the service (love the liturgy so far) and also fellowship after. But it’s stressful to me being an introvert. I think I’m getting my introduction speech down pat. I always point to the right kid at the right time as I’m introducing us to someone. Although I will always defer to my husband (and not because I have to – we’re pretty egalitarian) if he’s not already engaged in conversation with someone. Crazy extroverts.

The stress of navigating somewhere new could paralyze me if I let it. Am I going to do everything right? I have to talk to a stranger to ask questions about where to go, be it dropping the kids in their classes or just finding a bathroom. Stop by the welcome table to get a loaf of bread and some information! I’d skip it. And I like bread. But not my husband. He’s all about introducing us to people. I know, you can’t have questions answered if you don’t talk to someone. I like churches with good websites because of the questions I have answered before I even step onto a campus. Less seeking out people to talk to. I know I sound crazy to some of you, but if you are an introvert I think you get me.

I find myself torn between churches as an introvert (let alone for many other reasons). The large church with the ministries already in place appeals to me because my kids will naturally fit in to their children’s church, have others to interact with, plenty of tradition to fall back on, good music, etc. Good for my kids, but terrifying to me. Large churches with established small groups are an introverts nightmare. See that group of 20 people, they’ve been doing life together for years. Please, try to fit in and not feel like an outsider. (Crap, I was probably that cliquish person at my old church – lots to overthink there).

But the small church plants appeal as well. It’s a small group of people, and introverts love small groups. No real cliques to break into like at a large church when you are trying to find a community to connect with. People at a small church, especially a church plant, will naturally go out of their way to include you. You don’t feel as much of being an outsider there. Less space for an introvert to get lost in. Connections are more natural as everyone there is new and working toward growth.

Ask any introvert. We’d rather attend a small event where meaningful conversation happens than a large event where you don’t know hardly anyone. And I’m finding my natural introverted tendencies are affecting our church search, and this could be positive or not so positive. I know I need to consider all factors, not just my introversion. But, I do find myself more mentally exhausted after visiting a large church. I’m not sure how to process that, but trust me, I’ll definitely overthink it. I’ll work it out, and eventually become comfortable somewhere. I hope.

8 responses to “The Perils of Church Hunting for an Introvert

  1. With you in the difficulties of being introverted. I’ll share something that changed my perspective on “greeting time”. I read a list of things that bother us as Christians that probably shouldn’t. One was the shaking hands part of service. They said, “You’re going to be spending eternity with these people, the least you can do is say ‘hi’.” Not sure why, but that flipped a switch for me.

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  3. Boy, does this bring back memories! I am an extreme Introvert, and was the daughter and granddaughter of 2 Anglican Priests. So…..I had to mingle. Hated it, but was always aware that I was under scrutiny at all times. I didn’t want to reflect poorly on my parents, so I learned to smile and nod at the OBFC, always on my best behavior. (OBFC = Old Broads from Church. We New Englanders can be snarky!) The best thing was that my father was also an Introvert, so he didn’t make me stay too long at these things…and he also served as my example. “If HE can do it, so can I!” Like you, I had an Extrovert in the family (my mother), so I also let her do a lot of the talking. I’m no longer in the Church, but if I can share one thing that I am learning now, it’s that….keeping busy, doing something useful, is actually a way to avoid those awkward conversations, if that is what you wish. When you are engaged in setting up for coffee, putting tablecloths on tables, etc., you’ll be helping people *and* getting to know them, as you help out. Just one thing this Introvert is currently learning…. Enjoying your blog immensely! My best wishes for you on your journey. 🙂

      • You’re very welcome! I heard about your blog from my hubby, and I’m always interested in people’s faith journeys, whether Christian, Pagan, whatever. So happy for you! 🙂

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