Introverts and Youth Ministry

May 13, 2009 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Religion, Youth 

Grier Booker-Richards – a friend, seminarian about to graduate (hire her now, ask me how!), and experienced youth ministry veteran – has given me another blog challenge.  “Write something about introverts and youth ministry”.

Now, I’m no expert on youth ministry.  At best I’m a somewhat gifted amateur.  So I will write about what I can clearly write about – my experiences and what that leads me to think.

Background:  I’m just over the border to the 40’s, I test clearly as an INFP (strong I, strong N), and I’ve been a camp counselor and more recently a volunteer youth advisor to a Sr. High youth group at my church.  My return to church after a long absence also marked my first journey into youth ministry as an adult.  That was about 2 years ago.  (Wow.  Only 2 years?)

I’ll divide the rest into 2 areas:  Introverts entering youth ministry, and Introvert style in youth ministry

Introverts Entering Youth Ministry

I’ll admit it – I was very nervous when I started doing youth ministry again.  The last time I had done it was when I was a youth.  I remembered it fondly, and most importantly I was invited in.  Alicia, who I knew from camp, invited me to try out the youth group for a week or two.  She told me when to arrive and how to prepare.  She was there the first evening.

I was feeling a bit worried because my youth relational skills were VERY rusty.  Carolyn and I don’t have children, and I had very little interaction with anybody under age 25 for almost 20 years.  I didn’t know if I would have anything in common with the youth.  I was feeling all of the same fears that any new member of a youth group would feel.

I overcame that, and discovered (mostly in the 2nd week, when we broke out into groups) that the youth were fantastic people.  No, I mean REALLY impressive – better than I remember being at their age.

The key for me was that I had someone who invited me in.  Without Alicia I’m not sure that I would have taken the step.  It’s really funny to think that after my experiences.  Today, as I go through my career transition, I’m told repeatedly that if possible my new career should include working with youth.  There are people saying that they believe that I have a gift for this.  And I never would have found that out without Alicia pulling me in.

If you are an introvert (or just “shy”) and are considering youth ministry, try it.  Do it on your terms – make sure that you aren’t making a permanent or long-term commitment and just try it out for a week or two.  You’ll find out very quickly that you love it or hate it or can do it but it doesn’t excite you.  See where God is calling you.  Peek out of your shell.

It’s also important to remember a few things to be more comfortable.  First, you are an adult.  You are the authority in the room (maybe not the top dog, but certainly above the youth).  You have a life outside of the group.  You can walk away if you feel that you need to.  Second – you aren’t alone.  Something like 20% of the youth AND adults in the room will be introverts, too.  Other youth workers are trained (to some degree) in working with people of different types and they’ll be able to “read” you too and help you find your place.  Third – everybody (God included) wants the best possible experience for you and the youth.  They’ve got your back.  Fourth – be yourself.  If you are considering doing this it’s likely that being yourself is good enough (or better).  Youth need different kinds of adults in their lives.  By being yourself you provide them the strong example of authenticity when interacting with others.

In short – entering any new situation is hard.  This one can be easier than most.

Introvert Style in Youth Ministry

One of the great “truths” about ministry is that its easier for those who are outgoing or extroverted.  There’s some truth to that – ministry requires you to meet many new people and understand their needs and to give your message to the world.  It’s real, but not absolute.

Youth ministry is one place where being an introvert is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand the youth minister is expected to lead a group of people in need of direction and guidance.  You can’t live completely in your shell to do that.  But on the other hand, youth ministers are expected to be able to take a deep dive into the lives of their youth – particularly those who need more guidance or help or a shoulder to cry on than the average.  This is where introverts excel.

Treat diabetes: pomegranate juice helps to treat soft viagra diabetes very effectively. Though many medicines are quoted to be interfering with sexual function but it is relatively difficult to determine whether a particular medicine is causing erectile dysfunction or on line viagra affecting sexual function because: * Many diseases affect sexual function, so it can be difficult to find. Bad energy can be transferred in forms of delivery, and mode of payment. check this online order viagra When some players see this next defense called the free sample viagra Look At This English Defense, they try to move the game into a calmer setting. A young person today is very much like young people of all times – a bundle of new feelings, new hormones, a need to find a direction, and a hunger for connecting with others.  Today’s youth also have something that I don’t remember when I was their age – a drive to make the world a better place and ownership of the world that they are inheriting.

Youth today need breadth and depth.  Breadth is something that the extrovert large group leader is good at – energizing, motivating, teaching and entertaining a crowd.  The extrovert leader is able to communicate with the mass of youth and mold them roughly into better disciples, while gaining energy.

Where the introvert excels is depth.  Introverts are very comfortable delving into the deep corners of the soul, and often make very good listeners.  Introverts who trust others can build relationships that are long-term, deep, and very meaningful to both parties.  The introvert in youth ministry is less a sunny day or a thunderstorm than a rock or a tree – a solid (but not unchanging) structure that a youth can choose to linger near or cling to.

Please note first that these are gross generalizations and not true in all cases.  Sara Ferguson, one of my fellow youth advisors, is an extrovert with a capital E, and a capital X, and a capital T … you get the idea.  Yet she has formed the deepest relationships with our youth and is a strong and deep presence in their lives.  I’m getting better at working the group instead of working with individuals myself.  It’s an experience thing.

Also please note that breadth and depth are not the same things as quantity and quality.  Breadth and depth in youth ministry work are different kinds of quality.  Quantity does influence style – the extrovert is somewhat better with large groups and the introvert may be better with an individual.  But quality is in my opinion more important than quantity.  Breadth and depth are both different and non-contradictory measures of quality.

I also firmly believe that anybody can love anybody else (that’s what we’re doing – loving the youth).  Some relationships are natural and a few are almost automatic.  There’s no truth to the idea that introverted leaders work best with introverted youth, or the opposite.  It’s just a matter of style.

I do have a few tips for introverts in youth ministry, particularly those new to it:

Sitting on the Couch – Grier (remember Grier – she asked for this) taught me in an e-mail message that I received on the way to my first Montreat Youth Conference a ministry style that works well for me.  It’s called “Ministry by sitting on the couch”.  The idea is to simply be there, be available, and the youth will come to you.  At Montreat that took the form of sitting on the couch at First House (often recovering strength) and being open to speaking with the youth.  At my church youth group it means being loose and approachable – being there for someone to talk to.  If a youth wants to speak with you, they will find you.  This really works!  I had a few youth approach me at Montreat and we had some really deep conversations.  The same happens back at home – particularly with the youth who arrive early for events.  A few other thoughts on this – boundaries are important.  Don’t get hounded into giving up all of your free time.  When you are there for them, you have to give them your FULL attention.  Introverts are generally good at this unless socially exhausted.  Also, a little bit of followup privately (as opposed to in the middle of the room in a crowd) is important.

You Won’t Connect With All of Them – One thing that I find periodically frustrating is an inability to connect with all of my youth.  I truly love each of them in a way unique to the individual.  Realize this – you couldn’t possibly connect with each youth even if you wanted to, unless your group is VERY small.  And there’s no reason to expect to either.  This is why having multiple volunteers is important – different people click with different youth.  Don’t be upset if you fail to make a strong connection with any given youth – it’s more important that the youth connect with SOME adult.  Just be there for the youth that you do connect with.

One related issue common to INFP’s is the typical inability to accept yourself.  INFP’s are never satisfied with themselves – there is always a way to improve.  For me this means that the way that other people see me is a blind spot – I have trouble seeing myself as others see me.  Seek a safe person to check your assumptions with – they may see your interactions with others differently (and more accurately) than you do.

Help the introverted youth – You know what it’s like to be new in a group, and what it’s like to be an introvert in a crowd.  Be on the lookout for youth going through the same things.  Sit next to the new kid and just be there.  You don’t have to make endless small talk.  Just be there.  And if a youth reaches the “people overload” point and has to leave the room for a while, be the person who follows them for safety reasons.  Find a reason to go in the same direction (cleaning up dishes often works) and just bump into them in the hall.  Give them the space that they need without needing to round them up to rejoin the group.  You’ll need to bring them back at some point, but you’ll have some idea of when their batteries are recharged enough.  This requires some trust of both the leaders and the youth, but you’ll reach the “it’s OK – Mark is handling it” point pretty quickly.

You are not just an introvert – Everybody is different.  Everybody has different talents.  You will form relationships with all types of youth – both the introverted and the extroverted.  That’s a good thing.  You may have to extend yourself a little more than you’re used to, but it’s totally worth it.  You have something to give to the group that is unique, and you need to share it with all.  For me, it’s a love of sci-fi and anime, drumming, and flying.  For you it is probably something else.  Share yourself with all.

To sum up – introverts are a bit of a special case in youth ministry, but it is not a negative.  Introverts bring unique skills and viewpoint to any group, and can balance things.  Introverts can minister to other introverts, but are most effective when providing a quiet but strong presence to all.

Busy Week

May 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Young Adult, Youth 

This is gonna be a very busy week.  I’m going to be out and about in several communities with lots of activities.  Perhaps I’ll meet you at one of them.

Yesterday the ball started rolling with the God Complex radio show at noon EDT.  That went very well.  Later in the evening I had the Board of Deacons meeting at church which also went very well and very fast.

This morning I’m going to have to mow the lawn due to the impending days of rain (again).

This afternoon I’m going to the Presbytery of New Brunswick meeting, and assisting in the pre-presbytery event on “Working with Facebook”.  Before the meeting I have a networking meeting with someone in New Brunswick.

Tomorrow is relatively quiet.  A networking meeting in the morning, and the DVRA ham radio club meeting in the evening.  I may go get my driver’s license renewed during the day – it’s time again.
Use protected sex practices to be safe from HIV and cheap discount viagra other sex related diseases. Check out bookstores and viagra sale online book sellers for used textbooks. A doctor generic sildenafil tablets would prescribe you an anti-impotency medicine and recommend a safe, effective dosage of the medication, which includes herbal drugs, natural methods may have adverse side effects. It viagra price usa is however advised to take just one tablet to be taken about half an hour before having a session of planned sex.
Thursday afternoon begins the Princeton Seminary Institute for Youth Ministry Conference on Emerging Adulthood.  That runs Thursday afternoon and evening, all day Friday, and Saturday morning.  Friday evening, I’ll miss dinner and the recreation to attend a fundraising dinner “Southern Hospitality on the Lawn” related to my church.

Saturday morning I’ll miss rehearsal for Deacon Sunday.  Saturday evening my church youth group is holding a Cabaret and Silent Auction fundraiser for the summer trips.

Sunday morning is Deacon Sunday (I’m doing the Call to Worship), grocery delivery for Crisis Ministry in Trenton and the end of year party for our customers, and the Worship in a New Key service.

Monday I may get to see Carolyn again.  This is really a nutty week.

40 Prayers of Hope and Gratitude, for Bruce

May 2, 2009 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Religion, Work, Youth 

Tomorrow is the birthday of Bruce Reyes-Chow, a friend and currently the moderator of the PC(USA).  On his blog, he asks for some very charitable birthday “gifts” to him.  One of them is “a list of prayers for 40 things for which you are grateful, gives you hope or are in need of God’s healing“.  (Besides – he needs a little love.  The first comment on the post attacked him for a position of faith and politics – on a post related to his birthday!)

I can do that.

  1. For my wife, who I am VERY grateful for.
  2. For my family (parents and siblings) and the relationship that we have that didn’t look too likely for a while.
  3. For Barbara, Jill and Kathy – former co-workers who are being very supportive during my career transition.
  4. For the youth group at my church.  I am both grateful for them, and they give me hope.  Some of them need your prayers for healing.
  5. For the horde of Twitterati who follow my every tweeted move, give me music when I need it, give me information when I need it, and entertain me.
  6. For Rich, Jeremiah, Jill, Gooitzen, Elsa, Aaron and others from my church family who are being very supportive during my career transition.
  7. For the many recent and near-future seminary graduates that I interact with, who are both a source of hope and in need of prayers to find their destinations.
  8. For S (who will remain otherwise nameless here but I’m sure is reading this), for being/assisting my sense of call and helping me to explain my Montreat experience.  You know who you are.
  9. For the children in my neighborhood, who remind me of the relative importance of parts of life.
  10. For healing for those on all sides who have been hurt by the whole Amendment B business.
  11. For my cats.  Gratitude for them being there for me and entertaining me.  Hope that they radiate (particularly when it’s snack time).  Healing for both as they age and begin to suffer the effects.
  12. Hope from the members of my church’s confirmation class, who were able to teach parts of the lesson that I was teaching.
  13. Healing for two youth workers waiting for transplants.
  14. Gratitude for those who have let me put my skills to work for them while I’m seeking a job.
  15. Gratitude for my sister whose birthday is today (sharing it with Bruce’s “Middle” child).
  16. Healing for everybody else hurt by the economy.
  17. Healing for everybody else hurt by greed.
  18. Hope and healing for those with obstacles between them and what God is calling them to.
  19. Healing for those affected by swine flu Hamthrax H1N1 and gratitude that it is turning out to be mild for most.
  20. If it is of a mild nature and has a habit levitra cheap online of giving of themselves or making themselves vulnerable is another category of affected trust. Upon careful evaluation of your levitra prescription particular case, your doctor would then prescribe and suggest an effective solution of men’s erection issue. People who need this remedy often have digestive problems with gas and bloating, order levitra canada and an energy slump in the late afternoon and evening. cialis no prescription Know that the drug has certain side issues as well.

  21. Healing for those suffering from mental illness.
  22. Healing for Mom, who had two teeth pulled yesterday.
  23. Hope for/about Sara, who is taking the first steps in a new direction.
  24. Gratitude for and hope from Rich who is letting me find my place in the youth ministry.
  25. Gratitude for Lorelei.  Everybody needs a Lorelei, some of them the same one.
  26. Gratitude for two places on the entire planet (outside of my relationship with Carolyn) where I have been able to be myself 100%:  Camp Johnsonburg and Montreat.
  27. Healing for the people whose prayer cards come to me each week after worship.  Hope that my prayers are helping.
  28. Healing for the people of Sudan, of Somalia, and other places where oppression and violence reign.
  29. Gratitude for Tim, Jessica, Jessica, Nancy, Carolyn, Andrea, and a few others who have been there during my darkest hours (whether they realize it or not).
  30. Gratitude for the Project Open Door task force – it was great working with all of you, and I look forward to the next steps.
  31. Healing for all of those who feel that fighting about minutia is more important than loving one another.
  32. Hope and healing for all who feel that being somewhere else is what they have to do.
  33. Gratitude and hope for all of those who I’ve networked with during my career transition.
  34. Gratitude for the opportunity to play the drums again for a purpose.
  35. Hope (healing?  help?) for the God Complex radio staff and talent that we’ll be ready by Monday.
  36. Healing for those that I have hurt and have not reconciled with (and for me to do so someday).
  37. Gratitude for polity – specifically that of the PC(USA).
  38. Gratitude for that unexplained good mood that strikes sometimes.
  39. Hope?  Healing?  for my personal discernment in this season of change.
  40. Healing for all of my issues that I’ve chosen not to mention here.
  41. Gratitude, hope for/from, and healing if he needs it for Bruce.

Happy Birthday, Bruce!  Welcome to the over the hill gang.