Friday, May 30, 2008

Does Mission Have an Extroverted Bias??

I am reading a book for this mission developing class I am taking this summer called Living Lutheran: Renewing Your Congregation by Dave Daubert. I love how it uplifts notions of social justice and community.

Yet I actually think that it struck me that mission often has an extroverted bias. One of the lines said that "Most of us learn more in community than we do by ourselves. Almost all of us learn more when we discussed what we have listened to or read than when we simply listen to someone else or read their words on a page. The act of speaking requires us to put thoughts together, to synthesize ideas and turn them into points that other people recongnize when they hear them." I could not help but realize that this is the notion that mentors and teachers have often stressed to me on how adults learn. However it is not how I learn. I find that I enjoy good conversations and discussions about things quite a bit. I often get frusterated when I am expected to think of good responses to things on the spot in group situations. I remember once in a workshop that I was required to attend, a peer was frusterated with me in a group context telling me "Come on just tell us what you think, get it out." My response was "I do not know what I think yet. I need time to formulate my thoughts more." One of the things I get frusterated with in this way of teaching that is stressed is that I do enjoy interacting with other people but when I am given information and am expected to interact right away, I often have a hard time even knowing what I am thinking when I hear other people respond right away. Its easy for me to latch on to or react to what other people in the group are saying than it is for me to figure out my own response to the material. Yes, life throws me punches and I am capable of going with it. However I tend to not know what I am really thinking until I have had time to process it alone.

I had a well intended professor this last semester even who thought she was being helpful to us by not giving us a lot of writing assignments and having us come to class and discuss our questions and reactions to the material. For me I found that not having reading reflections assigned to us like some professors do to actually make do a lot more extra work for the class if I was going to be an active participant. However some of my other peers found this approach to be a releif from a lot of writing.

So I think that this approach to teaching in the church is probably not very friendly to people who are more introverted. In fact I think it might even scare them away! So how do you do mission to more introverted people? I think that having something like a Befrienders or Stephen Ministry would be to their liking, maybe even taking a creative spin on this that it does not need to be based in a need for pastoral counseling. I'm onto an idea here I think I would play with more. I also think that book study groups would be appealing as well. But it makes me think how the approach that mission often has is based in the extroverts world.

There is even a chapter in the book called "God prefers not to work alone." Another struggle point. Because I think that God works in the context of other people and in community quite a bit. However stressing this too much is hard for people who meet God in the quiet of nature, personal Bible study or personal meditation. Who maybe even prefer one on one conversations.

I think the challenge is that more of the population is extroverted than introverted. So introverts need to learn how to extrovert themselves to a certain degree in order to be sucessful. So how do we acknowledge that we need to find ways to serve both introverts AND extroverts to be a truly inclusive church.

Yes introverts need community too. But we need it in a different way. Stressing collaboration instead of everyone doing everything together has been a good way for me to feel better about working in groups. Although the amount of discussion about little things can seem annoying. I have often been in contexts as well where the mentality is that if you invite one person you should invite everyone. Having it be okay to invite just one or two people to do something would also make me feel better but the mentality of needing to include everyone in everything is a little stressful. With all of this in mind, how can we frame church in a way that there are opportunities that both introverts and extroverts can feel they thrive off of? How can we work together better? How can we tell people it is okay to be introverted, to be themselves and to be a part of the church? I often feel like introverts and extroverts have different gifts. However I also feel like extroversion is rewarded more as well. But I cant help but ask the question: Does mission tend to have an extroverted bias???


Kathy said...

I agree with the direction of your thoughts. There can definitely be an extroverted bias in a church's approach to mission or to what constitutes a bona fide Christian response to the Holy Spirit's action in his or her life. Examples of Christian living include lots of group this and that, and not very much "writing poetry," "writing a book," "painting," "researching," "praying," and other more solitary pursuits.

Please be quiet! said...

I think mission often does have an extroverted bias. I think many modern churches do, too, because society as a whole does. I've certainly seen a shift in the past 20-30 years (I am dating myself, aren't I?) in that introspection, mulling over ideas, thinking things through, prayerful consideration, etc. are no longer seen as having much value, but rather as an impediment to progress. All movement is seen as positive; all busyness is good. The new role model for Christians is Martha; Mary needs to get with the program.