Back in the day I was incredibly outgoing. I was the life of the party. You could always count on me to be fun, zany, happy and more than a little obnoxious. In high school I was that guy who could mix with any social group and was liked by pretty much everyone.
Anyway, the point is back in high school and college I was an extrovert. Every personality test I ever took confirmed this. If you are a DISC person, I was a high “I.” If you’re into that weird animal personality test, I was an otter.
Here’s the thing, after a decade in student ministry, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I am no longer an extrovert. How do I know? Crowds, conversations, entertaining—they all drain me. Malls? Don’t even ask. When I need to recharge I want a good book, a coffee shop and ear buds. Side Note: if you see me in Starbucks with aforementioned items feel free to smile and wave…nothing more please.
So what happened? I’m not exactly sure. All I know is that we were on a mission trip, there were too many freshmen boys and I torched a kid’s Elmo doll (true story). Or maybe it’s a decade of being the funny guy, the conversation initiator; the salesman of our ministry to volunteers and parents, the counselor to far too many broken kids and the defender of a couple too many mistakes to bewildered bosses and board members. Whatever it was, student ministry has literally knocked the extrovert out of me. I am an ex-extrovert.
At first I panicked because with thoughts like, “I don’t really like people anymore” I wondered if maybe it was time for a career change. I floundered for a while but in the last year, I have fully embraced my new personality. At first it was a little embarrassing but now I am an introvert and proud of it. I no longer feel guilty about wanting to be alone or feeling anxiety about initiating conversations with people I don’t know. Don’t blame me, I’m an introvert. Don’t hate! I’m just better suited to a book and a coffee shop.
I’ve learned that being an introvert has some advantages. Here’s a few:
- All this newfound alone time has gifted me with space to think creatively and strategically—which I love to do.
- Introverts don’t over plan the student ministry calendar which leads to more volunteer freedom and less burn out.
- Introverts don’t pass out cheesy evangelism tracts or preach judgment on street corners.
- As an introvert my filter is much stronger. Based on quantifiable research I now say 50% less dumb stuff.
So what about you? Are you feeling worn down? Running on fumes? Maybe student ministry has knocked the extrovert out of you. Maybe you too are an ex-extrovert. I suspect that there are a bunch of us in student ministry. Fear not, this doesn’t mean you can’t do extroverted stuff it just means that you need to understand that extroverted tasks will drain you and you’ll need to schedule times to recharge.
Has anyone else experienced this? I’ve love to hear your thoughts. Maybe we can start a support group…never mind, that would be weird.