The Introverted Disciple-Maker

There are two types of people in the world: those who are extroverts and those who are introverts. I am an introvert (an ISTJ for those who know Myers-Briggs), which is neither here nor there, but lately it’s become en vogue to flaunt one’s introverted-ness as a leadership strength (see here, here, here, and here).

Woo hoo. Power to the introverts.

Frankly, I don’t think it matters which type of personality we are so long as we are serving the people that have been entrusted to us. Nevertheless, there are certainly some drawbacks for the introvert that has chosen to work in the people-saturated industry of disciple-making. If the introvert is not careful, he or she may quickly find him or herself either burned out or hating people more than usual.

The introverts out there will think that was funny.

I’m kinda serious though. As an introvert, I recharge best when I’m not around people. Yet, if one of the most important steps to disciple-making is having one’s disciples with him all the time – it does not bode well for the introvert. I’m no expert, but I’ve been surviving in this field as an introvert for the past 12 years, so here are some thoughts on how introverts can thrive in the world of disciple-making.

1. Remain an introvert. Two thoughts here. First, no one is worth following if they’re trying to be something they’re not. So, just on general principle, don’t try to shake the fact that you are an introvert. Deal with it, roll with it, rock it, whatever. The better you understand how your introverted-ness works, the better you will be able to minister to the people you are discipling. Second, there is nothing wrong with you, so don’t feel like you have to over-compensate or “fix” yourself. Just like any extrovert, an introvert will have tendencies and preferences that he or she will either need to encourage or resist. Again, it’s better to understand introversion and wield it well than it is to “turn it on” or “turn it off” depending upon the circumstances.

2. Protect time for yourself regularly. If you think of the two personality traits like recharging a battery, it goes like this: introverts get recharged by being alone and extroverts get recharged by being around people. So, the drain on the battery is the reverse: being around people drains introverts and being alone drains the extrovert. Thus, it stands to reason that the introvert will need to regularly protect time when he/she can recharge enough to be able to have a battery to drain.

Since I have the privilege of directing a discipleship program and do discipleship full-time, I get creative with getting my alone time. When we’re traveling, for example, I always sleep alone or on the complete other side of the room. When spending a week with the students, if I know I’ll have 30 minutes each night in a room by myself, I can generally make it through just about any day. When we’re not traveling, it depends on how low my battery is. Some days when my battery is extra low, I won’t invite someone along with me on an errand (when I otherwise normally would) – I’ll just go by myself. Usually the 45 minutes alone is plenty to get me back on my feet. I also make sure not to schedule too many appointments in any given day. If I can keep my relational interactions few and focused, I can be more effective in my disciple-making than I could otherwise. Finally, I give myself permission to not talk to my students on the weekends unless I want to. Seems simple, but it took me a while to get used to not feeling guilty about it.

3. Drain your battery – daily. I use a laptop. I’m one of those crazies that’s always looking to plug in my computer wherever I am – regardless of whether or not the battery is low. For me, there’s always the possibility I’ll need a full battery sometime later, so I should keep it at 100% charge as long as possible. . . just in case. If I’m really honest with myself, though, I kinda live my life that way too. Having a low battery is risky. I don’t want to be caught without a power source when my battery is low. When I live that way, though, I’m not in a position of service; I’m in a position of self-protection (the most selfish posture of them all). So, my goal of late has been to make it to my protected alone time with 3% of my battery left. Isn’t that the point of having a battery to begin with? When I know I have a protected time when I’ll get the chance to recharge, it gives me the freedom to run my battery all the way down every day in service to other people.

4. When your battery dies, don’t freak out. There are certainly times when you finish the day with 3% left and are looking forward to your alone time and then something unforeseen pops up and zaps the rest of your energy as well as your chance to recharge. I’ve been in that position more times than I’ve liked and you know what?

It’s not that bad.

Introverts are super-sensitive people – especially when they don’t get their alone time. However, introverts must remember that just because they didn’t get the alone time they were hoping for, they are not entitled to treat people rudely or completely shut down. Believe it or not, we find that when we get to 0% on our battery, we actually don’t explode, disintegrate, or go crazy. We cope. We find a way to make it. And we’re fine. Introverts that pitch a fit because they are “out of gas” have forgotten that there is more to what keeps us running than time alone.

There are times in life when our battery dies. Those are hard days. But that’s the way it goes for everyone. We all have hard days. Better to live through a hard day than to live your life trying to avoid one.

So, to all of you who are introverts out there in the business of making disciples, I wish you all the best. Remember, the command to make disciples supersedes our need for alone time. We will all find that our natural abilities only carry us so far; it is the supernatural within us that makes ministry effective anyway.

. . . and He has an unlimited power supply.

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22 thoughts on “The Introverted Disciple-Maker”

  1. Even as an extrovert these principles are beneficial for me to hear as well. As I go throughout my day living out the command to make disciples and sharing my life with others, I forget how vital that alone time is for me in order to recharge. Going throughout this year that is one thing that the Lord has opened my eyes to even more. Though I hate to admit it….maybe there are some things we can learn from our introverted friends. Haha. Thanks for the post Matt!

  2. Introverts of the world unite! or.. wait, never mind…
    It’s a good reminder for us I’s… and also for the E’s out there so they don’t think we really hate people, and can understand the need to re-charge.

  3. As a fellow intro I do enjoy my alone time where I can reflect and recharge. That is a vital part of who we all are. Even our Savior went put to pray after and before very public engagements (Mark 1:35). Of course with everything there must be balance. Many times God wants us to extend out of our comfort zones for His purposes. God was perturbed with Moses for leaning on a proxy through Aaron. Here an intro needed to “man up” and operate in the “extro” world so God could prove Himself strong. And then there was Paul, the “extro,” whom God wanted to get some alone time – so he alowed him to spend some time in jail. Good thing, otherwise many epistles may not have been written. I celebrate my intro-side but recognize that I must always be available to move when called. And that doesn’t always happen on my terms. Ciao in Christ, DD

  4. I love your drain the battery point. It’s a great reminder for me to keep pouring out when I just want to hide or feel like whatever I’ve done so far that day is enough. I’ve definitely been in a position to have to lean into God’s energy when mine’s gone this year, and you did a great job of articulating what I’ve been trying to explain to people about my experience.

  5. Excellent post, Matt. I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put together your thoughts on this. Very good.

    As a fellow homebody – err, introvert, I too understand the need to get alone. A friend of mine years ago told me, “Rest is not in being alone. It is not in sleeping late. It is being still before the Lord, laying all your requests from him.” That has stuck with me since he said it to me 15 years ago.

    Again, thanks.

  6. Matt, thanks so much for this & you couldn’t have posted it at a more perfect time! As a fellow ISTJ my batteries are drained this week.

  7. Thanks Matt!

    Great reminder that the battery is there to empower, rather than to be the primary focus of our energies. My recharging should be a service to others… Not a selfish hoarding. 2 Timothy 4:1-8…. Every last drop.

    TouchΓ©,
    Jake

  8. I love this so much! As an introvert in Full-time college ministry I definitely had to learn both what my limits are and how to cope when that alone time is just not possible. The Campus Minister that I work under is also an introvert and definitely was a great example as a student how to be an introvert in ministry and still have healthy boundaries.

  9. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been in full time ministry in New Zealand for 6 years now, and I have definitely had my share of ups and downs. I’m an introvert and for a while, without even realising it, I’ve been comparing myself to those around me that I work with, even my wife, who are all extroverts. As a result, more than once I have absolutely exhausted myself and then been very hard on myself when I do this.

    However, God has been reminding me that I am knitted together by Him for His purposes through passages like Psalm 139, and that my weaknesses and perceived weaknesses can be used by Him for His glory (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). God has also used this article to encourage me!

    I’m also really striving to use at least some of any alone time I have to just be in God’s presence through prayer, studying Scripture and meditating, and when I do this, it’s like my battery is put on turbo recharge. A resource that I recommend in order to help aid this would be D60: Transformation Through Discipleship by Stephen Meeks.

    Thanks again for what you do.

    1. Hey Nick! Thanks for sharing your story and for the encouragement. Glad to hear the post was helpful to you. I’m right there with you learning how to give my life away regardless of how I feel or what I need.

  10. Oh man, my ISFP heart needed this. I literally laughed when I saw the title because this is exactly what I’ve been struggling with – how to be a disciple-maker without denying and draining my introvert self to the point where I am ineffective in my ministry. I love people so much, but can definitely start to hate them if I’m not taking the time to recharge my introvert battery πŸ˜‰

    Your post and these comments have been so helpful! I’ve been learning to protect my time in the morning with the Lord and to be especially intentional with even the short quiet moments I have throughout the day – to use them to pray or just rest in the presence of the Lord – so that when I do get that late-night call from a college student that interrupts my rarely planned introvert time I am able to drain the battery a little more, knowing that my time of rest with the Lord is and will continue to sustain me.

    Thanks again! I’ve loved following your blogs and studies since I worked camp 5 years ago!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Lauren! Nice to know someone still reads these. πŸ™‚ Glad to hear it was an encouragement to you. Glad to hear that we are partners in reminding college students of the Gospel.

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