A few years ago, I was at a bar with a friend who struck up a conversation with the bartender. They started talking about what brought her there — a few people from Hoboken Grace had wandered over after a connection event — and what she liked to do on the weekends. And then she invited him to church.
This was shocking to me not only because she had just invited a complete stranger, but because she’d made it look so easy. And it was something I could never picture myself doing. I’m practically a 10 on the introvert scale, and unless I’ve known someone for years, I feel awkward in most conversations. So inviting someone to church? I get anxiety just thinking about it.
For years, when Easter rolled around and we started talking on Sundays and in dinner group about inviting others, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat inadequate. On the one hand, I knew that as a Christian, I was supposed to be sharing the message of Christ. But I’m not great at initiating invites to brunch, let alone church. And the whole thing usually served as a reminder that I don’t have the social skills of some of my more extroverted friends (whom I’m incredibly grateful for, because otherwise I’d probably never leave my apartment).
To be fair, not all introverts are shy, awkward or antisocial (and extroverts can be just as prone to social anxiety). But generally speaking, introverts find their fuel in alone time, while extroverts thrive in being around other people. They process things and approach relationships differently. And while there are different levels of introversion and extroversion, most of us identify with one or the other.
But while an estimated one-third to one-half of us are introverts, we live in a world that seems to have a cultural bias toward extroverts, more often valuing charisma and action over silence and contemplation. Christians and churches are no exception — oftentimes, we celebrate the people who are comfortable sharing their story with strangers, who are incredibly friendly and hospitable, who eagerly sign up to serve, and, who, yes, invite other people to church.
As someone who’s more quiet and reserved than most people, it took years to shake the sense that my social awkwardness was some kind of epic shortcoming. It took years to stop feeling like being an introvert somehow made me inadequate — especially when it came to serving God. But as I came to realize, the Church is a body of people with different gifts, who can accomplish God’s work because of that. Introverts can serve God just as well, though they’re often in less visible roles. They might not be the people who are greeting on Sunday mornings, or standing at Connection Points. They are most likely not the people inviting random bartenders to church — and that’s okay.
But if you identify as an introvert — or anyone who deals with social anxiety — that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invite that person you feel God is nudging you to invite. So how do you do that when it goes against your entire wiring? Here are a few suggestions:
1). Think about the people you’re closest with
So we’ve already established that you’re probably not going to invite a random bartender or someone you’ve just met. But there’s likely someone in your life who you might feel more comfortable inviting on Easter (which, studies show, is when people are most likely to attend church). Consider inviting a parent, sibling or roommate.
2). Play to your strengths
Generally speaking, a lot of introverts are more intuitive and better at picking up subtle things than extroverts. Maybe you’ve noticed that someone you know is going through a tough time. Maybe they’re the person God is nudging you to invite this year. And speaking of strengths, perhaps you’d feel more comfortable inviting them by email or text.
3). Check your comfort level at the door
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, being vulnerable and stepping outside our comfort zones is what enables us to grow. And really, most of us — myself included — make inviting someone way more complicated than it is. The worst scenario is that someone says no.
4). Get out of your head
Chances are, you’re better at inviting people than you think. If you tell yourself you have nothing to offer and that your words are ineffective, you’ll likely only continue to believe that. My extroverted friend — the one from the bar — says getting an invitation from an introvert feels more personal and intriguing than an invite from an extrovert. “The down side to being an extrovert is that people sometimes get overwhelmed by them, or assume they’re just one of many to get an invite, and therefore even if that person is special it might not seem meaningful to them,” she says.
5). Find a place where you’re comfortable inviting someone — in your own way
If you’re not comfortable with inviting someone right now (it took me a few years to get there), consider joining a team where you can use your strengths to do that in a less scary way. For example, through social media and the newsletter, the Communications Team indirectly invites hundreds of people to attend services on Easter. In addition, members of most teams at Hoboken Grace — Grace Kids, First Impressions, etc. — will serve on Easter Sunday, helping to create a welcoming environment for those who might be checking out church for the first time. If you’re interested in doing the same, check out hobokengrace.com/teams.
Brittney is a member of the Writing Team, and writing this was much easier than talking about it.