Do Pentecostal Churches Treat Introverted Members Less Favourably?

Carol Stewart sheds light on how the Pentecostal church environment can be overbearing for introverts, and encourages churches to become more aware of the challenges they face

Research suggests that extroverts get more opportunities in the workplace because their performance is more visible, and 37% of introverts report being treated negatively because of their introversion. This rises to 45% in self-identified introverts.

Does this also apply in Pentecostal churches? Pentecostal churches can do introverts a huge disservice when they fail to understand introversion and have misconceptions about their reserved nature.

This is demonstrated by ‘Pentecostalism and Introverts: A Study and Examination of the Two Groups and Their Relationship’ by Chris Chandler, which looked at how the public viewed the relationship between the Pentecostal Church and introverted people.

Nearly 75% of people said that they saw extroverts as being better suited for Pentecostal churches. Furthermore, 49% believed that Pentecostal churches receive and adapt poorly to introverts, 42% that they receive and adapt moderately, and only 9% said that they receive and adapt very well.

Introverted people often exhibit higher levels of cortical arousal: their brains tend to be more active and responsive to stimuli in their environment.

The loud, dramatic effects of some Pentecostal church services can induce a heightened sensitivity, as the introverted person’s brain processes and responds to these stimuli more intensely. This can result in them feeling drained and retreating inwards, which can be misinterpreted as being anti-social, lacking confidence, too quiet, or shy.

Being told to turn to the person next to you and say ‘blah, blah, blah’, then turn to the person on the other side and do the same – following a highly charged praise and worship session – can be draining for an introverted person. Yet this is something we see week after week in many Pentecostal churches. Add to that the loud volume of noise from everyone praying at the top of their voices at the same time…

In the book Introverts in the Church, Adam S. McHugh wrote about his struggles as an introverted pastor. The struggles, he said, are representative of what many introverts face when manoeuvring through the Christian community, which can be biased toward extroversion.

His experience showed him that evangelical churches, in particular, are places that can be more challenging for introverts to thrive in. It can be a struggle to get the right balance between their introverted qualities and the expectations of evangelism and community.

Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, refers to us living in the extrovert ideal – namely, an omnipresent belief that the ideal self is alpha, gregarious, and comfortable being in the spotlight (something often reflected in Pentecostal churches). It is often the case that he or she who ‘shouts’ the loudest gets heard and seen, whereas the quieter ones often get overlooked.

Introversion isn’t something that needs to be “gotten over”; introverted people bring many qualities that Pentecostal churches would do well to utilise. Deep thinking, good listeners, empathy, creativity, and analytical are just a few qualities that introverts bring.

Whilst many introverts are typically not bothered about being in the spotlight, this does not automatically mean they are shy, don’t like public speaking, and lack confidence. Nor that they do not want to take on leadership roles.

Introversion and extroversion exist along a continuum, and we all have a preference as to where we fit. Introverts typically prefer less stimulating environments, whereas extroverts have a preference for more stimulating environments. Extroverts are more likely to be energised by the external stimuli from the environment of many Pentecostal churches.

Different environments may cause us to display more behaviours typically associated with either introversion or extroversion – less so in larger groups where there is a lot of ‘noise’.

Introverts may find making small talk draining. They tend to think and process information before speaking (whereas extroverts tend to process information whilst speaking), which can be mistaken for lacking confidence in speaking up. Because of the ‘extrovert ideal’, introverts can feel pressured to act in ways that go against who they are.

Known as ‘counter-dispositional behaviour’, research shows that whilst there may be some short-term benefits to putting on an extroverted persona, in the long term, it can take its toll. Being inauthentic and trying to be someone you are not can be stressful and chip away at your self-confidence.

Comparing introverts to extroverts is a bit like comparing apples to pears. They are different, but they are both tasty fruits. Pentecostal churches need both introverts and extroverts leading from the front and active behind the scenes. They also need to be aware that not everyone wants to be high fiving the person next to them, and shouting at the top of their voices all the time!

Carol Stewart is an executive, career, and leadership coach, and author of Quietly Visible: Leading with Influence and Impact as an Introverted Woman. Visit https://aboundingsolutions.com


One thought on “Do Pentecostal Churches Treat Introverted Members Less Favourably?

  • 3rd June 2024 at 4:10 pm
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    In my case, I could not stay at the Church of God I attended. I am an introvert and had so many people try to pressure me into waving hands, running and shouting. I was made to feel like I was less than the loud LAM types.
    One preacher even called me a liar because I said I’m not emotive.
    Good luck to others.

    Reply

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