Hello, my name is Jeremy, and moving from fear to friendship can be difficult.
You see, I’m an introvert.
: a person whose personality is characterized by introversion: a typically reserved or quiet person who tends to be introspective and enjoys spending time alone
This is funny because I am also the Pastor responsible for every ministry related to connections at our church. #godhasasenseofhumor
As an introvert, I sometimes joke that I’m a “social introvert.” I enjoy being around people, but social interactions can also be draining. I need a lot of alone time to recharge, which can be challenging when I’m also a father, husband, and friend. These interactions can be especially difficult in new and unfamiliar environments.
That’s why I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we can make small-group meetings more accessible to introverts. These types of meetings can often be overwhelming for them generating fear and creating barriers to friendship.
But we want everyone to find a place where they belong, right?
That’s why it’s vital to equip our small group leaders and point people to facilitate with introverts and extroverts in mind.
Steve Gladen once said, “Small groups are not just one of the many ministries in the church. They are the heartbeat of the church.” If that’s true (and I believe it is), we must ensure they’re accessible to everyone.
Four ways to move introverts from fear to friendship.
#1 – Set clear expectations.
Want to make small groups more accessible for introverts?
Start by setting clear expectations around the specifics of the meeting. For introverts, knowing what to expect can be a game-changer.
For example, we’ve all been in small group meetings that drag on forever. It can be uncomfortable and make it hard to show up the next time. Setting clear expectations around meetings can put introverts at ease and help them feel more comfortable.
As Dave Earley said,
“Clear expectations are the foundation of effective small group meetings.” When everyone knows why they’re there, what they’re expected to do, and how the meeting will run, they can focus on building relationships, sharing ideas, and achieving their goals together.
Predictability is critical to moving people from fear to friendship in a social setting.
By setting clear expectations around meeting length, content, location, and other essential details, you can create an inclusive atmosphere that makes everyone feel more at ease. These expectations will help introverts understand what to expect, be prepared beforehand, and help the entire group move toward success.
#2 – Allow introverts to observe before participating.
This is key.
Let me tell you a story about my first small group experience as a teenager. It was a prayer circle, and I was terrified. As each person prayed, my anxiety grew, and I was in full-blown panic mode by the time my turn came around. If I could have run away, I would have! After sweating out about two litres of water, I finally escaped. It took me a long time to feel comfortable in a prayer circle again.
But that experience taught me something important – we must be careful not to force introverts to participate. While extroverts may thrive in new situations and with new people, introverts need time to adjust and feel comfortable.
If you’re leading a small group, be patient and give introverts the time and space they need to participate in their way knowing that this space will help them move from fear to friendship. Don’t pressure them to speak up or share their thoughts if they’re not ready.
Does that mean you shouldn’t ask? No. But be empathetic in how you do it.
By creating a safe, non-judgmental environment, you can empower introverts to engage and participate in their own time and on their terms.
# 3 – Encourage everyone to participate but give them time to do it.
Want to make small-group ministry more inclusive for introverts?
Of course, you do or wouldn’t have read this far into this blog post.
So, if you desire this, sometimes it will mean sitting in silence to facilitate this.
I know it’s tough in our digitally connected, noise-filled world to embrace silence. But trust me, it’s essential, especially for introverts. Those quiet moments can give introverts the courage to speak up and share their thoughts.
As an introvert, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt prompted by the Lord to speak up in a small group setting. But then, a fierce battle would wage in my head and heart that went something like this:
“Not a chance, what if…?”
“Please Lord, I can’t. I’ll sound dumb.”
And on it would go, leaving me feeling an odd mix of relief and discouragement if I missed the chance because there wasn’t enough time.
So, don’t be afraid of silence.
Embrace those moments and trust that God may be working in someone’s heart by giving them the space to speak up.
It may be uncomfortable, but creating a welcoming and inclusive space for introverts is worth it.
#4 – Allow time for one-on-one connections.
Have you ever stepped into a hot bath without letting the water run first? It’s not the most pleasant experience, right? But did you know that if you get in while the water is still flowing, your body has time to adjust to the heat, and it becomes a whole different story, even if the water is hotter than before?
The same can be true for introverts in small group meetings.
Jumping right in can feel overwhelming and uncomfortable, but taking some time to adjust and connect one-on-one can make all the difference.
I didn’t fully appreciate this until the pandemic hit and our small group meetings were shifted to Zoom.
While grateful for the continued connection, I realized how much I missed those pre- and post-meeting moments. In these micro-transactions, friendships are built, trust is established, and community is formed – all of which can become the foundation for more profound moments of sharing in a larger group setting.
So, let’s ensure we intentionally create those one-on-one moments for introverts in our small groups. It’s not just about making them feel included. It’s about building a robust, connected community where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued.
When it comes to building small groups, don’t forget about introverts! Fear can often be a barrier to friendship.
By intentionally creating an environment that welcomes and values their unique perspectives, we can break down the barriers that might keep them from joining.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, we all desire to feel seen and heard in our community. So, let’s ensure our small groups reflect that and create a space where everyone can thrive together.
Cover photo by https://www.reallifetv.church/home-groups