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Shyness, Introversion and Ministry

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I’ve been in ministry for fourteen years alongside my husband and have had several upfront roles of my own. So it can come as a surprise to people when I admit to them that I am quite shy. 

I was a shy child. It was partly personality and partly because we moved a lot internationally. I quickly learned to watch and listen so I could adapt before I spoke up (and give myself away with a different accent!) In my youth, it meant that:

Shyness and Introversion

Obviously, this is not only shyness but also her related sister, introversion. Numerous personality tests have since confirmed it. I’ve had to work hard at being open, welcoming and friendly, and therefore avoiding my natural shyness and hesitation.

Yet, I do walk up to new people and introduce myself. I often find that I'm the one driving conversation: asking the questions and following up later. And, I believe, God has been at work giving me confidence to stand in front of people and present with (almost!) ease. 

I do these hard things because I am convinced God calls us to serve one another in love. I need to welcome newcomers or people on their own. I need to put my nervousness aside. God strengthens me in my weakness.

I am convinced God calls us to serve one another in love. I need to welcome newcomers or people on their own. I need to put my nervousness aside. God strengthens me in my weakness.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still uncomfortable at times. Breaking into groups of people is very hard, and am more likely to be seen standing on my own after church, wondering who to approach. I use a full script for every situation where I have to present something in public. Unlike my husband, who can speak competently with little or no notes, I need them. They are my personal life raft, ready to rescue me if my mind wanders or my thoughts flee. 

Introversion Increasing

As the years go on, I’m testing as more introverted.  I’ve begun to wonder—is it because I constantly push myself outside my comfort zone and therefore need and value the recovery time more?  I have also pondered—are extroverts ever shy?  

Interestingly, my husband currently tests as extroverted (even though we both know he’s truly an introvert). We think it’s because he answers the questions reflecting his job which is almost entirely people-based. Of course, this also shows how subjective some of the tests are! 

The Cost and Management of Introversion

Doing ministry amid shyness and introversion come at a cost. We often ‘veg out’ in front of the TV at the end of the day, before we have the energy to talk with each other. We both cherish silence—but need to keep reminding ourselves that a house with three children will never be quiet. We want to be hospitable and have an open house, but know we have limits. Both of us often retreat to helping out in the kitchen at various points in large gatherings.

So, what have we discovered about being shy and introverted in ministry?

Generally, we’ve realised that we need to avoid overloading ourselves with other people—making us unable to care for ourselves, each other and our family. Here are some of the practical ways we manage this:

We were recently described publicly as extroverted—we had to laugh, thinking ‘it’s funny what people assume!’ In reality, we manage our personalities both in public and private so that we continue to serve God to the best of our abilities, and God-willing, will continue to do so for years to come in ways that honour him, and are helpful for others.  

So, if you are similar—how do you manage your shyness and/or introversion?


Photos: unsplash.com (head); pexels.com (body)

Wendy Lin studied at Moore Theological College, graduating in 2002 with a BTh. She is married with three school-aged children and she views her home as her primary ministry. Her husband is in full-time ministry to university students, and together they co-ordinate the marriage & parenting ministries at their church in Adelaide.  She also gives Bible talks and seminars to women’s groups, and is involved in several ministry-wife networks.

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