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Introverted or Extroverted Catholicism?

February 10, 2013

I am taking a couple classes from the Michigan Small Business group, business planning and starting a food related business. The food class, based on the first session, looks to be very informative on many levels. The business planning class, however, is a bit overwhelming.

Part of creating a good plan is to have focus on your business idea. My focus is nearly everything and you can’t create a good business plan around that (or so they say), and so I started to search through my 1000+ Facebook page likes to see what was the more popular of my likes to try to zero in on a focus. Getting a little nervous about my plan, I started to find my “likes” on introverts, entrepreneurs and the like.

I took a breather and connected with a few introverts, listened to a podcast and read a few posts and I began to calm down, while I still need to narrow my focus, I am an introvert and the majority of business planning material is geared toward the extroverted personality. Understanding that, I can now go back to my studying and not take it so personally that I don’t fit into the mold that they seem to want all entrepreneurs to fit in.

Introverts in a nut shell

Introverts in a nut shell

So where does the Church fit into this? Well my overly active, introverted brain wondered how this application of introverts fitting into the extroverted business model might apply to the Church, especially since I am getting involved in the New Evangelization effort at my parish and vicariate; and the Church is seriously ramping up it’s evangelization efforts. How do we evangelize the extroverts AND the introverts. Too much overt evangelizing and the introverts will be pushed away.

One of the first thoughts for reaching out to the new people at church is to employ greeters. Sure it can be just a “hello” or a “welcome”, but curious introverts would rather just slip in anonymously. One of the posts I found was Introverts in the Church by guest blogger Rev. Adam McHugh in Susan Cain’s blog. Sure, the focus is the Evangelical Church, but we might want to think about it in our own efforts in the Catholic Church. After all, spreading the Good News requires communicating with people.

Rev. McHugh shares an anecdote in the post:

The scowling old man nearly bumped into me as he fled the sanctuary.

As I turned to watch him stomp out to the parking lot, I asked a friend if she knew why he’d left before the service started. She replied, “You know how in your sermon last week you encouraged all of us to be more welcoming to newcomers? Well, after five people came up to him to introduce themselves, he blurted “Can a guy just be anonymous when he checks out a new place? I want to be left alone!” And thus concluded his seven minute survey of our church.

It’s not only cantankerous old men with a flair for storm-off exits who are turned off by hyper-friendly churches, however. As I reflected on that event, I realized that I too would be intimidated and overwhelmed by that many strangers approaching me, no matter how genuine and kind they were. As it turns out, our churches are actually teeming with this species of people called “introverts.” I am one of them, as is 50% of the American population, according to our best and latest research.

For being 50% of the population, introverts are made to feel substandard and cranky as compared to their extroverted brethren. As we struggle with the New Evangelization effort itself and all that it entails, we also need to keep in mind the needs of the individuals we minister to as we try to bring more souls back in to the folds of the Church. Evangelization will not be a one size fits all activity. We have introverts and extroverts; we have people who were offended by “the church” some how; we have the poorly formed, fallen away Catholics, and on and on. Possibly Rev. McHugh’s book Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture can open our eyes to the introvert/extrovert dynamic of church.

May God bless all of the evangelization efforts everywhere!

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