Friday, March 23, 2007

Elvis has left the building

Yesterday I went to visit Retired Seminary Professor who has health issues that are keeping him mostly homebound right now. We chatted for over an hour and at one point he gave me an unsolicited critique of my first year at Academic Suburb Church. He said very nice things about my preaching and worship leadership and commented that his wife, who is on our session, appreciates the way I run meetings. Then he remarked,

Of course your big weakeness is your demeanor on the patio after church. You're an introvert and after two hours of teaching and preaching you've clearly burned all your gas and don't have the energy to "work the crowd".

He suggested that I might want to just "disappear" after worship rather than hanging around looking like a wrung out sponge. (He didn't actually say wrung out sponge, but that's what he meant).

How bout it, fellow introverts: How doyou deal with the after church mingle time? This isn't the type of atmosphere we're most comfortable with anyway and Retired Seminary Professor is correct that between Sunday School and Worship we do tend to run clear through our extroversion energy by the time coffee hour arrives. But I'm not sure "leaving the scene" is the best solution.


Sue said...

Oh wow, does this ever resonate with me!!

I'm an extreme Introvert, and by the time worship is over on Sundays, I'm done. Coffee time is the worst part of my week.

I'm tempted most weeks to slip out the back door, but I'm not sure that's the best solution.

What I usually do is go to my office to remove my alb and stole, and sit quietly with the door closed for a few minutes. This is usually enough to recharge me for the schmooze session that follows.

cheesehead said...

This is timely for me. I am currently doing our EP a favor by being a "friendly listening ear" in a conversation between a session and a pastor. The major complaint(that they will express, anyway) is that she does not attend coffee hour at all. She hides out in her office.

Obviously there is more to the story, but it reminded me how important "face time" can be.

I think Sue may be on to something.

Teri said...

hmm...maybe I should suck it up and go to coffee hour! sadly, ours is/are (depending on the current schedule) between services which makes it really tough b/c that's also when education is (or sometimes when another service is!).
HoS gathers his family and goes home immediately after worship. I usually have youth group, so I hide in my office until then. And I'm an extrovert! hmm....thanks for the good food for thought!

oh, for an answer!

Presbyterian Gal said...

Not a pastor. As a pewsitter, gotta tell you Revs that the face time means a lot. If our pastors hid out after service I'd mentally plop them into the category of "Professional Pastor" rather than "Vocational Pastor" and harummph on my way home.

Now before you kick my unordained behind, I would end up asking them to their face "what gives?", but most folks likely wouldn't. So there's that, plus the fact that you take away an arena for the Holy Spirit to whisper in your ear about individual flock members.

Bag Lady said...

Phew. I understand your concern.

Also a pewsitter here and an introvert. Which is but one reason I've thanked God so very many times that I wasn't called to ordained ministry. I've seen how much "face time" matters.

I've seen the entire range of healthy pastoral personalities and I know that all have something to offer -- and introversion isn't unhealthy, so long as it's not crippling.

Definitely Sue is on to something for the introverts. If you take a few minutes, really no one will notice (most of us understand that the pastor often gets buttonholed for something, needing to disappear, and we won't question it at all when you reappear).

It doesn't hurt to educate people on what happens to one's brain/psyche in the course of one's duties. Healthy people will know how to help you, once they know what you're dealing with.

Maybe develop a mental "triage" for what are serious concerns and what are just maintaining connections.

Important things (counseling, church business, etc.) can be dealt with by asking the person to contact you at a set time, when you're in a "refreshed" mode to properly give attention.

Maintaining connections are much simpler -- grateful acknowledgment of the person's presence is often all that is required.

Of course, being an introvert, I know that when I'm low on energy, it's difficult to make or enforce those distinctions.

So build and rehearse a mental list of how to determine which is which.

I do feel for you.

Sarah Louise said...

Yes, totally take a few minutes.

Isn't it humanity that it's so easy to send the wrong message (I hate you all) when all you need is a few minutes to yourself before you can love them again?


--from an introverted pew sitter

Mary Ann said...


(Well, some empathy. I was born very introverted, but I merely have introverted preferences now.)

I think that this is a case in which a job worth doing is well worth doing less-than-well.

Since it's education hour, however, you have the active option of sitting in on a class each week, if that will be less painful and as feasible.

revabi said...

We don't have after church mingling, other than the shaking hands at the end. But I leave and go home and go to bed. I am not an introvert, but it is all draining no matter what label you have. I have been told that preaching is like brain surgery like a long one. So just remember that.

Take care of yourself. Since you do face time after all that, do what Sue does. Our face time is early and before everything starts. And guess what, I am not an early morning person, but I make an effort to be there, and be with.

I agree about the comment about educating people, some just do not know or understand. I think face time is important, even though the new so called experts don't

Anitra said...

I wanted to wait a few days before posting this - which is good because I preached yesterday (I preach irregularily) which reminded me what a uniquely powerful energy drain sunday morning can be.

Nonetheless - I alwasy wonder a little bit about unsolicited advice - or advice in general which includes this entry in the conversation.

Is there a possibility of RSP's advice containing a bit of projection of his own diminishing energy? Perhaps you don't look like a wrung out sponge, you just look like someone who has been a bit busy for the last few hours. Perhaps it might be useful to check RSP's perception of you with others?

As for me, I had a two hour lie down on the couch and watch brainless TV session which included a short nap yesterday afternoon.

Mary Beth said...

I wouldn't be able to tell you, because as an introverted choir-loft-sitter, I never stay around for coffee hour. Is there a pastor there? Who knows?

But certainly there are E's who would wonder where the pastor went....

wish I had an answer

Adam McHugh said...

Well, I'm the guy that has devoted an entire blog to introverted pastors and Christians, so this is certainly a relevant question for me. I feel a huge tension here, as I think many of us do. As much as our preaching and teaching is significant, the fact is that people listen to us more carefully if we have talked to them in person. The coffee hour is an important time for pastors to connect with those we don't see in other settings. I think there are times when we can not worry about the mold people try to squeeze us into, and there are times when we need to extend ourselves beyond our normal energy level and trust God to sustain us. I think the coffee hour is one of those latter times. Practically, I try to 1) Use my Saturday well. I try to find some solitude on Saturday morning and then get plenty of sleep that night. 2) Keep a regular routine (this is my "J" side coming out too ) on Sunday morning. 3) Pray for energy as I'm going into the coffee hour. If I can I'll take 3-4 minutes before I start mingling to breathe and pray. 4) Plan something that will be relaxing and re-energizing after church. That helps sustain me when I'm tired.