"I see a blind spot in your article."
"I do affirm the articles' primary points: the dangers of isolation, that the distinctive demands of pastoral ministry require support from those who understand those demands, that such support should be intentional, and that, for women, the situation is even more distinctive, requiring that women network together," he said.
"The blind spot is one of extroverts. The kinds of support you describe highlight groups, describing group interaction as the best way for appropriate support to happen. All that is, to an introvert, discomforting."
Dan and I have engaged this topic several times. We laugh at the parts that we appreciate and love about one another that are completely opposite. These same parts can drive us crazy. Our differences are beyond simply "female stuff" and "male stuff." I am an extrovert, and Dan is an introvert. These are two dimensions of personality types, and they are grounded in how a person is energized.
Extroverts, says Psychology Today, comprise 50 to 74 percent of the American population. They are "social butterflies" who draw energy from the environment around them. They thrive on social interaction, enjoy being around people, and often fill their schedules with activities. "Extroverts learn by doing and enjoy talking through ideas and problems."
Introverts are energized by time alone and silence. People in the remaining 26 to 50 percent of the population tend to be introspective and contemplative. New relationships, loud social occasions, and intense or extended interaction with people drain them. Introverts "prefer to focus on one task at a time and observe a situation before jumping in."
Anyone in leadership should know whether she is an extrovert or an introvert. If you know how you gain energy, and how you need to go about recharging when you're depleted, you'll save yourself and your flock a lot of awkwardness and need for relationship repair. (If you don't know your personality type, fear not. Your mouse and your finger can help you figure it out. Click here to take a free personality inventory.)
More important, understanding yourself will help you better connect to God. This is crucial because we know that apart from God, we can do nothing (John 15:5). An extrovert might feel God's presence strongest on a mission trip, participating in a service project, or attending a revival with 10,000 of her closest friends. Her introverted sister, on the other hand, may crave a personal silent retreat, spiritual direction, or a solitary walk with God through a wooded area.
In regard to clergy/church leader network groups, Dan's take on them is quite different from mine.
"I've tried clergy groups before. Occasionally, I still attend them," Dan says. "But they are not fulfilling, encouraging, or life-giving. My introversion finds them depleting, aggravating, and even exhausting."
Perhaps what each pastor, priest, and church leader needs is a balance of both. I am not a raging extrovert. As energized as I am by preaching, volunteering for Vacation Bible School, and leading Sunday school discussions, my soul regularly cries out for quiet time with God—both quality and quantity time. I need hours alone with God, my Bible and journal, a warm cup of tea, and a comfy place to pray and listen to God just as much as any introvert.
Conversely, an introverted friend recently told me that her group of sisters in ministry is vital to her life and fulfillment of her call. "I need safe and genuine friendships too," she said. Social isolation is not good for anyone. Beyond that, it's counterintuitive for the Christian faith journey that understands community as our Savior's body. We function best, for the good of all God's people and creation, together (1 Corinthians 12).
Extrovert or introvert, clergy or lay church leader, female or male—despite our differences, we share commonalties. And an important one is that we must care well for ourselves. "How can you lead the flock if you are sick?" asks a blog called Your Pastor Voice. "Heal your mind and soul and spirit so you can stand tall in the presence of God!"
Amen to that!
Rev. Angie Mabry-Nauta is a writer and an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America (RCA). She served as a solo pastor for six years. A member of the Redbud Writer's Guild, Angie blogs at "Woman, in Progress…". Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @Godstuffwriter.